Much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.

Romans 5:15

It is a typical and accepted teaching in Christian churches today that Moses and the Old Testament knew only God’s law, and that Christ and the New Testament know only God’s grace.

I repeat: That is the “accepted” teaching of the hour—but I also hasten to add that it is a mistaken concept, and that it was never the concept held and taught by the early Christian church fathers.

God has always been the God of all grace, and He does not change. Immutability is an attribute of God; therefore, God at all times and in all of history must act like Himself!

He is the God of all grace; therefore, the grace of God does not ebb and flow like the ocean tides. There has always been the fullness of grace in the heart of God. There is no more grace now than there was previously, and there will never be any more grace than there is now!

The flow of God’s grace did not begin when Christ came to die for us. It was part of God’s ancient plan of redemption and was manifested in the blood and tears and pain and death at Calvary’s cross!

Lord, I am a recipient of Your abundant grace, and without it I would perish. I pray that others will see Your grace in my life today.[1]

5:15 The first contrast is between the offense of Adam and the free gift of Christ. By the trespass of the first man, the many died. The many here refers, of course, to Adam’s descendants. Death here may include spiritual as well as physical death.

The free gift abounds much more to the many. The free gift is the marvelous manifestation of the grace of God abounding to a race of sinners. It is made possible by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ. It was amazing grace on His part to die for His rebellious creatures. Through His sacrificial death, the gift of eternal life is offered to the many.

The two manys in this verse do not refer to the same people. The first many includes all who became subject to death as a result of Adam’s trespass. The second many means all who become members of the new creation, of which Christ is the Federal Head. It includes only those to whom God’s grace has abounded—that is, true believers. While God’s mercy is showered on all, His grace is appropriated only by those who trust the Savior.[2]

The Contrast In Effectiveness

But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. (5:15)

The first contrast is clearly stated as being between the free gift of Christ and the transgression of Adam, acts that were totally opposite.

By definition, all gifts are free, but charisma (free gift) refers to something given with special graciousness and favor, and therefore could also be appropriately rendered “grace gift.” When used of what is given to God, the term refers to that which is right and acceptable in His sight; when used of that which is given by God, as here, it refers to that which is given completely apart from human merit. In regard to Jesus’ atoning sacrifice, both meanings are involved. Going to the cross was Jesus’ supreme act of obedience to His Father and therefore was wholly acceptable to the Father. His going to the cross was also the supreme act of divine grace, His free gift offered to sinful mankind.

Transgression is from paraptom̄a, which has the basic meaning of deviating from a path, or departing from the norm. By extension, it carries the idea of going where one should not go, and therefore is sometimes translated “trespass.” The one sin of Adam that was bequeathed to all his posterity and that brought the reign of death on the world was a transgression from the one command, from the single norm for obedience, that God had given.

The impact of the free gift and of the transgression are distinct to themselves. By the transgression of the one, that is, Adam, the many died. Perhaps for the sake of parallelism, Paul uses many in two different senses in this verse. As will be seen below, he uses the term all with similarly distinct meanings in verse 18. In regard to Adam’s act, many is universal and inclusive, corresponding to the “all” in verse 12. Because all men, without exception, bear in themselves the nature and mark of sin, they are all, without exception, under the sentence of death (as he has made clear in earlier chapters).

By eating of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Adam departed from God’s standard and entered a divinely-forbidden realm. And instead of becoming more like God, as Satan had promised, man became more unlike His Creator and separated from Him. Instead of bringing man into the province of God, Adam’s transgression delivered him and all his posterity to the province of Satan.

The heart of Paul’s comparison, however, is that Christ’s one act of salvation had immeasurably greater impact than Adam’s one act of damnation. Much more, he says, did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. The divine provision of redemption not only is an expression of the grace of God the Father but of the grace of God the Son, the one Man, Jesus Christ.

The sin of Adam brought death. But the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, did more than simply provide the way for fallen mankind to be restored to the state of Adam’s original innocence. Jesus Christ not only reversed the curse of death by forgiving and cleansing from sin but provided the way for redeemed men to share in the full righteousness and glory of God.

John Calvin wrote, “Since the fall of Adam had such an effect as to produce ruin of many, much more efficacious is the grace of God to the benefit of many; inasmuch as it is admitted, that Christ is much more powerful to save, than Adam was to destroy” (Commentaries on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1979], p. 206). God’s grace is greater than man’s sin. Not only is it greater than the one original sin of Adam that brought death to all men but it is greater than all the accumulated sins that men have ever or will ever commit.

It might be said that Adam’s sinful act, devastating as it was, had but a one-dimensional effect-it brought death to everyone. But the effect of Christ’s redemptive act has facets beyond measure, because He not only restores man to spiritual life but gives him the very life of God. Death by nature is static and empty, whereas life by nature is active and full. Only life can abound.

Contrary to its use in the beginning of this verse regarding Adam, the term many now carries its normal meaning, applying only to those for whom Christ’s gracious gift of salvation is made effective through their faith in Him. Although Paul does not mention that qualifying truth at this point, He has just declared that believers are “justified by faith” and are introduced “by faith into this grace in which we stand” (5:1–2). That, of course, is the cardinal truth of the gospel as far as man’s part is concerned; it is the focus of Paul’s teaching in this epistle from 3:21—5:2.

Many of the Puritans and Reformers ended their sermons or commentary chapters with a statement about the passage’s “practical use.” The practical truth of Romans 5:15 is that the power of sin, which is death, can be broken, but the power of Christ, which is salvation, cannot be broken. “Our Savior Christ Jesus,” Paul declared to Timothy, “abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Tim. 1:10).

Jesus Christ broke the power of sin and death, but the converse is not true. Sin and death cannot break the power of Jesus Christ. The condemnation of Adam’s sin is reversible, the redemption of Jesus Christ is not. The effect of Adam’s act is permanent only if not nullified by Christ. The effect of Christ’s act, however, is permanent for believing individuals and not subject to reversal or nullification. We have the great assurance that once we are in Jesus Christ, we are in Him forever.[3]

[1] Tozer, A. W. (2015). Mornings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1699). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1991). Romans (pp. 302–304). Chicago: Moody Press.


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