The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Romans 5

Rom 5:1

THEREFORE: A logical deduction from Rom 4, where Paul has shown that justification came NOT from works (vv 1-8), nor ordinances (vv 9-12), nor by obedience to the Law (vv 13-17), BUT by faith (vv 18-25). Now we see the benefits of this.

THROUGH FAITH: KJV has "BY faith". But it should read "OUT OF faith": it is not faith in the abstract that saves us, but justification springs out of a well-grounded faith.

What saves us? Grace (Eph 2:8,9). Hope (Rom 8:24). Belief (Mar 16:15). Baptism (1Pe 3:21). Gospel, and its memory (1Co 15:1,2). Blood of Christ (1Jo 1:7). Faith (Rom 5:1). Works (Jam 2:24). Ourselves (Act 2:40). Endurance (Mat 10:22). What saved the "drowning man"? The rock, the rope, another man, himself... or ALL of them?

PEACE WITH GOD: Peace is the result of righteousness, and not -- as today's world tries to attain it -- on the basis of UNrighteousness: cp Luk 2:14; John 14:27; Eph 2:14; Phi 4:6,7; Psa 85:8.

Peace: made (Col 1:20), preached (Eph 2:17), enjoyed (Rom 5:1), filling hearts (Rom 15:13), given (John 14:27), keeping (Phi 4:7), and ruling (Col 3:15).

Rom 5:2

THROUGH WHOM: "Dia" = THROUGH whom... Continues the thought of Rom 3:24.

ACCESS: Gr "prosagoge": a bringing in or an introduction. Suggests the introduction of a subject into the presence of the sovereign, or worshiper to the object of worship. Elsewhere only in Eph 2:18; 3:12. Of ourselves, we have no right to enter the presence of God; Christ has introduced us there (1Pe 3:18). By contrast, those who entered into the presence of the monarch without express permission might expect death (Est 4:11). But, in Christ, the pure in heart will see God (Mat 5:8)!

"He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit" (Eph 2:17,18).

REJOICE: More lit, "boast" or "glory" (Gr "kauchaomai"). Used in Rom 2:17,23; 5:3,11; 12:12,15; 15:10.

IN THE HOPE: Lit, "epi": on the basis of... hope.

THE GLORY OF GOD: In our present state we have no hope (Psa 90:10). But Christ will manifest Yahweh's majesty in the earth and He will thus be glorified (Mic 5:4). We can do the same now (Rom 8:17,18). The "trial of our faith" is necessary now in order that we "might be found unto GLORY at the appearing of Jesus Christ" (1Pe 1:7). The Glory of Yahweh is seen in His Name (Exo 34); and we must manifest that Name (Rev 14:1).

Rom 5:3

However, peace with God (v 1) does not necessarily bring peace with man. The actual conditions of life, especially for believers in the midst of a hostile society, are not easy or pleasant, but the knowledge of acceptance with God, of grace constantly supplied, and the prospect of future glory enable believers to exult in the face of sufferings.

WE ALSO REJOICE IN OUR SUFFERINGS: See Article, "Rejoice in tribulations".

BECAUSE WE KNOW THAT...: It is not the suffering per se in which Paul rejoices, but in the KNOWLEDGE that the suffering is but the prelude... eventually... to God's love (v 5)!

SUFFERING PRODUCES PERSEVERANCE: "The human mind is naturally given to shallowness and folly and the infantile, characterless pursuit of pleasure and excitement. Very few ever get beyond this stunted stage. Tribulation, if we are rightly exercised by it, forces us to come face to face with the sober realities of life, and intelligently adjust our purposes and characters to them. This is the teaching of the Scripture, and the wholesome experience of any with any sense and maturity. Some run away crying, vainly seeking solace in animal emptiness, and gain nothing from their sorrows. This is tragic" (GVG).

"So God in his wisdom allows trouble to come our way for the express reason of teaching us patience. Again we can see this in the life of a little child. If the child gets everything it wants exactly when it wants it then it has no patience at all and soon becomes miserable when going out into the cruel world where mommy and daddy are not there to supply every request. Parents are wise to teach their children patience by sometimes making them wait, and no doubt from the viewpoint of the child this waiting is a form of tribulation" (MM).

SUFFERING: "Thlipsis": pressure, compression. The purpose of tribulation in a believer's life is explained in Rom 8:35; 12:12; Mat 13:21; John 16:33; Acts 14:22; 2Co 1:4; 7:4-7; Heb 12:8; 1Th 3:1-4. Notice the living example of Paul: 2Co 11:24-31.

PERSEVERANCE: Gr "hupomeno" = to bear, or remain, under (eg, a burden or test). See Rom 2:7; Heb 12:1; Jam 5:11; Job 23:10; 42:11.

If I can be sure, when the time finally comes for the Great High Priest to return from the Most Holy Place bringing the final blessing.... that I'll still be here, waiting at my post, rejoicing in the tribulations which I endure, and having learned patience... real PATIENCE... enough for a lifetime, of broken hearts and broken dreams [sounds like a country western song, doesn't it?], of hurt feelings, of resentments, of disappointments, of bitterness, of ailments and illnesses, of the gradual and insidious decline of all my human powers, and the frustrations of coming short time and again of what I would like to be, but can't quite be, of asking forgiveness for the 490th time for the same sins, of forgiving others for the same number of times.... without throwing up my hands and walking away from the door of the temple. Out into the howling waste of a wilderness of snakes and scorpions -- where there is no hope and no life and no love... the wilderness where Judas went, and Cain, and Saul, and a million others -- who could not truly believe that the High Priest was coming to bring them the last great blessing. Yes, if I can only wait... long enough.... then "I WILL BE saved" will turn into "I AM saved"! God give me strength enough to wait... that long. And I won't even care whether that strength should be called the Holy Spirit or something else...

"Our heavenly Father sends us frequent troubles to try our faith. If our faith be worth anything, it will stand the test. Gilt is afraid of fire, but gold is not [1Pe 1:7]: the paste gem dreads to be touched by the diamond, but the true jewel fears no test. It is a poor faith which can only trust God when friends are true, the body full of health, and the business profitable; but that is true faith which holds by the Lord's faithfulness when friends are gone, when the body is sick, when spirits are depressed, and the light of our Father's countenance is hidden. A faith which can say, in the direst trouble, 'Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him' [Job 13:15], is heaven-born faith. The Lord afflicts His servants to glorify Himself, for He is greatly glorified in the graces of His people, which are His own handiwork. When 'tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope' [Rom 5:3,4], the Lord is honored by these growing virtues. We should never know the music of the harp if the strings were left untouched; nor enjoy the juice of the grape if it were not trodden in the winepress; nor discover the sweet perfume of cinnamon if it were not pressed and beaten; nor feel the warmth of fire if the coals were not utterly consumed. The wisdom and power of the great Workman are discovered by the trials through which His vessels of mercy are permitted to pass. Present afflictions tend also to heighten future joy. There must be shades in the picture to bring out the beauty of the lights" (CHS).

"Paul wrote: 'We glory in tribulations also' (Rom 5:3). is this genuinely possible? Only by attaining unto the state of mind manifested by the Apostle. He bore with tribulation because he saw the divine purpose in it. For one thing, he declared, it 'worketh patience,' or endurance. It is useless fretting against what we cannot alter, and therefore a courageous man will bear with it, and a faithful man will see beyond it. Once a trial has been successfully surmounted it brings 'experience' (Rom 5:4). The Greek word, 'dokimen', signifies full proof by trial. The metaphor is taken from the refining of metal, in which there is purification by fire without any deterioration or loss of worth. If in tribulation we seek God's help, and endure the unpleasant experience moment by moment in the realization that it cannot last for ever, we will ultimately emerge from it with the knowledge that we did not rest on God's help in vain, and that we manifested the strength to endure.

"This will lead to hope. Hope in what? In the knowledge that He who sustained us in the past will do so in the future even to the setting up of the Kingdom; and in the realization that as we emerged successfully from one trial so we can from the next, leading to a steady growth of endurance, until the time come when all such experiences will cease. Thus 'hope maketh not ashamed', for we shall triumph in spite of trouble, and will respond to the 'love of God' that will be revealed in our hearts. Let us then develop the mind of Paul in the face of trouble. Let us view it as a time of testing, in which we can manifest that faith without which 'we cannot please God' (Heb 11:6), and a period of opportunity in which we are able to demonstrate our unswerving loyalty to Him in face of a challenge. When we do this, we truly 'fellowship the sufferings of Christ,' and will reveal an attitude pleasing unto the Father. However, let us be sure that our tribulations are not the result of our own folly: 'For what glory is it if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? But if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God' (1Pe 2:20)" (HPM).

Rom 5:4

CHARACTER: KJV has "experience". Gr "dokimen": full proof by trial. See also Phi 2:22; 2Co 2:9. Not the act of going through the trial, but the result of having been tested and refined. See 2Co 8:2.

HOPE: The expectation that God will do in the future what He has done in the past. Therefore, as He has sustained us in the past, He can still do in preserving us to His kingdom.

Rom 5:5

Rom 5:5.

HOPE DOES NOT DISAPPOINT US: Cp Rom 4:18. Hope developed out of suffering and trials produces a frame of mind which allows one to go on confidently through life, freed from illusion and despair.

POURED OUT: "Ekcheo": to be poured out. Poss ref to the Holy Spirit being poured upon the believers at Pentecost: notice that "disappoint" is used in the LXX of Joel 2:26,27 -- which pertains to Acts 2. The verb speaks of the inexhaustible abundance of the supply, being reminiscent of the copious provision for the thirsty children of Israel in the wilderness (Num 20:8,11). This is particularly impressive in view of Paul's identification of the rock with Christ (1Co 10:4).

HIS LOVE: Human love may bring disappointment and frustration, but the love of God does not.

BY THE HOLY SPIRIT: THROUGH the Holy Spirit, that is, through the revelation of the written word -- or other "Spirit" revelation. Although Spirit gifts were literally given to some at baptism (John 7:39; Acts 10:45), not all received them (Acts 8:18-20). Here, it refers to the effect the Truth has on the believer, as a power in his life (John 6:63; Eph 6:17; 1Jo 5:6; 1Co 2:9-16).

Rom 5:6

AT JUST THE RIGHT TIME: "But WHEN THE TIME HAD FULLY COME, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons." (Gal 4:4,5). Since the argument of Romans has included the purpose of the law as bringing clear knowledge of sin (Rom 3:20) and as working wrath (Rom 4:15), the connection with Gal is fairly close. The law had operated for centuries and had served to expose the weakness and inability of man to measure up to the divine standard of righteousness. No further testing was needed. It was the right time.

POWERLESS: That is, powerless to obtain justification by works, as in Rom 3:19--4:25. The Law is unable to provide justification (Gal 4:9; Heb 7:18).

FOR: Gr "huper": on behalf of, for the benefit of. Not the Gr "anti", which means "instead of". Cp Rom 8:32; 14:15.

THE UNGODLY: Omit "the". Mankind in general, who are without hope (see Rom 4:5). "Asebes" = one who has no reverence for divine things. Does Paul have himself in mind here (Phi 3:6)?

Rom 5:7

VERY RARELY: With labor and pains, hence with difficulty, hardly. See its use in Acts 14:18; 1Pe 4:18.

A RIGHTEOUS MAN: Such a man -- IF he existed! -- would be in no need of a sacrifice: see Rom 3:26.

GOOD: Gr "agathos": one who acts beneficially towards others, devoting himself to their welfare.

SOMEONE MIGHT POSSIBLY DARE TO DIE: If it would do any good!

Rom 5:8

God's love for all mankind, regardless of merit, is "commended" (AV) to us as our example: "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Mat 5:44-48).

SINNERS: Gr "hamartolos" -- lit, one who misses the mark; a sinner.

CHRIST DIED FOR US: "For" is "huper" again: "on behalf of".

Christ died for men who were neither "righteous" nor "good" (v 7)! "The contrast is between the tremendous worth of the life laid down and the unworthiness of those who stand to benefit from it. Back of the death of Christ for sinners is the love of God (v 8): God loved; Christ died. No attempt is made to deal with the Savior's reaction or motivation. Paul leaves much to Christian awareness of the intimate bond between Father and Son, the whole truth about God being in Christ (2Co 5:19) and Christ being motivated by love for the lost (John 15:12,13). What he puts in the foreground is the love of God, and this Paul underscores by designating it as 'his [God's] own love.' It is distinctive, unexpected, unheard of (cf John 3:16)" (EBC).

Rom 5:9

The greatest work to provide for our salvation has already been finished! Much the lesser work -- the saving from the wrath of God (Rom 2:5-8) -- will be easy by comparison!

BY HIS BLOOD: The blood of Christ, poured out in confirmation of the covenants made with the fathers of Israel (Gen 15; Rom 15:8). See 1Co 6:19,20; 7:22,23; 1Pe 1:18-20; 2Pe 2:1; Rev 5:9.

GOD'S WRATH: To be poured out on the Gentiles: 1Th 1:10; 5:9,10.

Rom 5:10

ENEMIES: Gr "echthros" = to hate; those who have "enmity" toward God (Rom 8:7). Note the list: "ungodly" (v 6), "sinners" (v 8), and now "enemies" (v 10). Fully explained in Col 1:21-23: "Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation -- if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel."

HOW MUCH MORE: Paul reasons from the greater to the lesser. If God loved us when we were enemies, now that He has made provision for us at infinite cost, much more will He go on to see us through to the final goal of our salvation.

RECONCILED: Gr "katallasso": to change or exchange, esp from enmity to friendship. For reconciliation, see 2Co 5:19; Eph 2:16; Col 1:21.

THROUGH HIS LIFE: The efficacy of Christ's work continues because he lives. The living Christ provides: (1) his ability to intercede (Heb 7:24,25); (2) strength for his servants (Phi 4:13); (3) the light of life shed abroad (John 8:12); and (4) an elevation to sonship (John 1:12). Now "Christ in us" becomes the energizing power of our lives (Gal 2:20; Col 3:4; 2Co 4:10,11).

Rom 5:11

THROUGH WHOM WE HAVE NOW RECEIVED RECONCILIATION: Paul not only states that we have been reconciled (v 10) but that we have RECEIVED the reconciliation (v 11). He avoids saying that we have done anything to effect the reconciliation. God provided it through the death of his Son. The matter is made even clearer, if anything, in the companion statement that God has reconciled us "to himself" (2Co 5:18). The appropriate response of the saved community is exultation (vv 2,3).

Rom 5:12

ONE MAN: "Except for two nontheological references (Luke 3:38; Jude 1:14), every mention of Adam in the NT comes from the pen of Paul. In 1Ti 2:14 he makes the point that Adam, unlike Eve, was not deceived, but sinned deliberately. In 1Co 15, as in the Romans passage, he institutes a comparison between the first and the last Adam, but confines the treatment to the issue of death and resurrection, even though sin is dealt with somewhat incidentally (vv 17,56), whereas in Rom 5 both sin and death are named immediately and are woven into the texture of the argument throughout. In the earlier letter Paul makes the significant statement 'For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive' (1Co 15:22) in line with Rom 5:12. Paul has already referred to the inevitable connection between sin and death in the only previous mention of death in Romans (Rom 1:32) exclusive of the death of Christ (Rom 5:10). But here in v 12 he pictures sin and death as entering the world through one man, with the result that death permeated the whole of mankind. It was the opening in the dike that led to the inundation, the poison that entered at one point and penetrated every unit of man's corporate life" (EBC).

BECAUSE ALL SINNED: "For that all have sinned" (AV); "in which (whom) all sinned" (Diag). That is, all men were involved in Adam's sin. They were summed up and included in him as the head and representative of the race. How then was God justified in implanting corruption in the physical body of a child before it has sinned? On two counts: (1) In His foreknowledge, God provided a natural condemnation for Adam's posterity whom He knew would all sin (Rom 3:23). (2) All flesh possessed the inherited capacity for lust that leads to sin. This flesh -- being "sinful flesh" -- had itself to be condemned (Rom 8:3; Gal 5:24).

"That we could have sinned in Adam may seem strange and unnatural to the mind of Western man. Nevertheless, it is congenial to Biblical teaching on the solidarity of mankind. When Adam sinned, the race sinned because the race was in him. To put it boldly, Adam was the race. What he did, his descendants, who were still in him, did also [or, perhaps, are "reckoned" as having done!]. This principle is utilized in Heb 7:9,10, 'One might even say that Levi, who collects the tenth, paid the tenth through Abraham, because when Melchizedek met Abraham, Levi was still in the body of his ancestor'.

"If one is still troubled by the seeming injustice of being born with a sinful nature because of what the father of the race did and being held accountable for the sins that result from that disability, he should weigh carefully the significance of reconciliation as stated by Paul: '...that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them' (2Co 5:19). The sins committed, that owe their original impetus to the sin of the first man, are not reckoned against those who have committed them provided they put their trust in Christ crucified and risen. God takes their sins and gives them His righteousness. Would we not agree that this is more than a fair exchange?" (EBC).

Rom 5:13

BEFORE THE LAW WAS GIVEN, SIN WAS IN THE WORLD: This cannot be the law of Eden (Gen 2:17), since there was no sin in the world before that. It must be referring, therefore, to the Law of Moses (as in v 14).

SIN IS NOT TAKEN INTO ACCOUNT: Sin is not "reckoned, or imputed" by the SINNER! Where there is no law, the sinner does not recognize his sin.

Rom 5:14

DEATH REIGNED: "Death" is personified here as a king -- very similar to Rom 6, where throughout "Sin" reigns as king!

THOSE WHO DID NOT SIN BY BREAKING A COMMANDMENT, AS DID ADAM: Or, as KJV, "them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression". "Similitude" is the Greek "homoioma": see Lesson, "Homoioma" (likeness).

Adam deliberately rejected a direct commandment from God. After Moses, Israel did the same. But from Adam to Moses, other men sinned too -- even though there was no specific revelation to them. In short, death reigns upon all men, even those not responsible by specific and precise knowledge of God's law.

ADAM, WHO WAS A PATTERN OF THE ONE TO COME: Adam was a "type", or pattern, or mold, of the one who was to come: the second, or last, Adam (1Co 15:45). How so? " 'The resemblance, on account of which Adam is regarded as the type of Christ, consists in this, that Adam communicated to those whom he represented what belonged to him, and that Christ also communicated to those whom he represented what belonged to him' (Haldane). This amounts to saying that what each did involved others" (EBC).

The contrast of the two federal heads:

The heads
The action
One act of trespass
One act of perfect obedience
Kind of action
The great initial breach of God's law
The victory of the "Word" of God over the weakness of the flesh
Persons affected by the action
All mankind
All mankind (who are in Christ)
Proximate effect of the action
Influx of many transgressors
Influx of grace and clearing away of transgression
Ultimate effect of the action

Rom 5:15

HOW MUCH MORE DID GOD'S GRACE AND THE GIFT... OVERFLOW: "Perisseia": "an exceeding measure overflowing" (Vine). In Christ "the one", "the many" receive abundance infinitely greater than that which Adam, "the one", lost, for truly the wages of sin is death but the GIFT of God is eternal life (Rom 6:23).

"In him the tribes of Adam boast... more blessings than their father lost!"

TO THE MANY: The expression goes back to Isa 53:11,12 ("After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life; and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify MANY, and he will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of MANY, and made intercession for the transgressors") which underlies our Lord's use in Mark 10:45 ("For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for MANY").

Rom 5:16

BUT THE GIFT FOLLOWED MANY TRESPASSES AND BROUGHT JUSTIFICATION: Under Adam, all flesh was to die, even if not directly responsible for sin against God's Law (1Co 15:21,22). In Adam, therefore, was physical condemnation: a position that HE brought into existence. In Christ, however, was moral regeneration -- a position that YAHWEH brought into existence through grace in Christ Jesus (v 17). One is the antithesis of the other.

In Adam's case, a single sin was involved, and that was sufficient to bring condemnation, but in the work of Christ a provision is found for the many acts of sin that have resulted in the lives of his descendants.

Rom 5:17

BY THE TRESPASS OF THE ONE MAN, DEATH REIGNED THROUGH THAT ONE MAN: One sin brought about a sentence that condemned Adam AND his posterity.

HOW MUCH MORE: In Christ not only is the hold of death, established by Adam's sin, effectively broken, but because of Christ's redeeming work the believer is able to look forward to reigning in life through Christ. This, of course, implies participation in the resurrection. Believers will have a share in the Lord's kingdom and glory.


Rom 5:18

"Even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life" (AV). See Lesson, Wayne and the free cheese.

THE TRESPASS: Adam's sin (Gen 2:17) is labeled "trespass", indicating that it was deliberate (cf "breaking a command" in v 14). The basic meaning of the word rendered "trespass" is to convey the idea of falling aside or going astray. "It refers directly to the disruption of man's relation to God through his fault" (NIDNTT).

Rom 5:19

THE MANY WERE MADE SINNERS: "Kathistemi": made, or constituted. The many were born into a constitution of sin and death; they were made subjects of "King Sin". This death-stricken state into which man is born is not his fault, but his misfortune, not a crime but a calamity. Man is "sold under sin" (Rom 7:14), like a helpless slave, who cannot determine or change his own fate.

THE OBEDIENCE OF THE ONE MAN: Christ became obedient unto death (Phi 2:8).

THE MANY WILL BE MADE RIGHTEOUS: Again, "made" means "constituted". Not righteous intrinsically, nor righteous by one's own efforts. But placed under a "constitution" of grace and righteousness -- to be found only in Christ!

Rom 5:20

THE LAW WAS ADDED SO THAT THE TRESPASS MIGHT INCREASE: That is, "that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful" (Rom 7:13). The entrance of the law was intended to magnify the presence of sin in the mind of the sinner, so that he might be cause to exclaim: "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?" (Rom 7:24).

"The apostle is not maintaining that the purpose of the giving of the law is exclusively 'that the trespass might increase,' because he makes room for the law as a revelation of the will of God and therefore a positive benefit (Rom 7:12). The law also serves to restrain evil in the world (implied in Rom 6:15; stated in 1Ti 1:9-11). Paul says the law 'was added'. Similar language is used in Gal 3:19, where the law is regarded as something temporary, designed to disclose the transgression aspect of sin and prepare the way for the coming of Christ by demonstrating the dire need for his saving work. This function of the law -- eg, to increase transgression -- was not recognized in rabbinic Judaism. From the Sermon on the Mount, however, it appears that Jesus sought to apply the law in just this way, to awaken a sense of sin in those who fancied they were keeping the law tolerably well but had underestimated its searching demands and the sinfulness of their own hearts" (EBC).

WHERE SIN INCREASED, GRACE INCREASED ALL THE MORE: Divine grace and forgiveness may now be manifested, and overflow, in far greater abundance than the sin itself (cf Rom 3:19,20). The apostle waxes almost ecstatic as he revels in the superlative excellence of the divine overruling that makes sin serve a gracious purpose. In only one other passage does he use this verb ("hypereperisseuo"), which expresses "super-increase", and there the theme is not sin but trouble: "in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds" (2Co 7:4).

Rom 5:21

Examples of personification: riches (Mat 6:24); sin (Joh 8:34; Rom 5:21; 6:16); spirit (Joh 16:13); wisdom (Pro 3:13-15; 9:1); Israel (Jer 31:4,18); people of Christ (Eph 4:4,13; 5:23; Rev 19:7; 1Co 12:27; 2Co 11:2; Col 1:18,24).

"With great effect Paul brings the leading concepts of the passage together in the final statement. 'Sin reigned in death' picks up vv 12,14; 'grace' looks back to vv 15,17; 'reign' reflects vv 14,17; 'righteousness' harks back to v 17 as well as to Rom 1:17 and many other passages; 'eternal life' completes and crowns the allusion to 'life' in vv 17,18. Sin and death are virtually personified throughout. Sin poses as absolute monarch, reigning through death as its vicar, but in the end it is exposed as a pretender and is obliged to yield the palm to another whose reign is wholly absolute and totally different, being as much a blessing as the other is a curse.

"The treatment of sin, death, and salvation in terms of righteousness is crucial to our understanding of our relation to God. It loudly proclaims that no sinner, whether a mystic aspiring to direct contact with God or a legalist counting on his good works to approve him in God's sight, is able in his own way to find acceptance with God. Because another man, Adam, has intervened between him and the Creator, still another, even Jesus Christ, must be the medium of his return as a sinner to a righteous God. The claim of Jesus of Nazareth resounds through the passage: 'I am the way -- and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me' (John 14:6)" (EBC).

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