5:19 The expression will be made does not refer to the last judgment, as if our salvation were pending until that time. Rather, it pictures the fact that believers are made righteous when they come to faith. Since Paul knew many people were yet to come to faith when he wrote, it was fitting to use future tense.
5:19 one man See note on v. 12.
the many will be made righteous Although Christ’s obedience has implications for the justification of all people, it does not result in justification apart from their acceptance of the free gift (see v. 17).
5:19 Because of Adam’s disobedience, all people were made (Gk. kathistēmi, “cause[d] to be”) sinners. Thus, when Adam as mankind’s representative sinned, God regarded the whole human race as guilty sinners, thereby imputing Adam’s guilt to everyone. In other words, God regarded Adam’s guilt as belonging to the whole human race, while also declaring that Adam’s guilt does in fact belong to all. All are therefore sinners, and are born with a sinful nature that is set in the mold of Adam’s transgression.
5:19 made righteous. This expression probably refers to one’s legal status before God and not an actual change in character, since Paul is contrasting justification and condemnation throughout this passage, and he has not yet introduced the doctrine of sanctification (chaps. 6–8) which deals with the actual transformation of the sinner as a result of redemption.
5:19 Made means “to make,” “constitute.” As the result of Adam’s sin, people became sinners. By Christ’s death many will be made righteous (in contrast to declared righteousness, see 4:3). That is, believers are actually being constituted or made righteous. Through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, the believer who has been declared righteous by God is continually becoming more righteous.
5:19 Just as by Adam’s disobedience to God’s command many were made sinners, so also by Christ’s obedience to the Father many who trust Him are declared righteous. Christ’s obedience led Him to the cross as our Sin-bearer.
It is futile for universalists to use these verses to try to prove that all men will eventually be saved. The passage deals with two federal headships, and it is clear that just as Adam’s sin affects those who are “in him,” so Christ’s righteous act benefits only those who are “in Him.”
5:19 “one man’s disobedience … the obedience of the One” Paul was using the theological concept of Old Testament corporality. One person’s acts affected the whole community (cf. Achan in Josh. 7). Adam and Eve’s disobedience brought about the judgment of God on all creation (cf. Gen. 3). All creation has been affected by the consequences of Adam’s rebellion (cf. 8:18–25). The world is not the same. Humans are not the same. Death became the end of all earthly life (cf. Gen. 5). This is not the world that God intended it to be!
In this same corporate sense Jesus’ one act of obedience, Calvary, resulted in (1) a new age, (2) a new people, and (3) a new covenant. This representative theology is called “the Adam-Christ typology” (cf. Phil. 2:6). Jesus is the second Adam. He is the new beginning for the fallen human race.
© “made righteous” See Special Topic at 1:17.
Ver. 19. For, by the obedience of one many were made sinners, and by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.
One man’s disobedience and its consequence:—
- Man was made in the image of God, which consisted partly—1. In his power over all terrestrial creatures (Gen. 1:26; Psa. 8:5, 6). Hence he gave names (Gen. 2:19, 20). 2. In the perfection of his nature, endued with—(1) Reason. (2) Will (3) Knowledge (Col. 3:9, 10). (4) True holiness (Eph. 4:24).
- Man fell from this high estate through disobedience (Gen. 2:16, 17; 3:1, &c.) 1. How this was done. (1) Through Satan’s temptation, which was managed with great cunning. (a) He enters the serpent, the subtlest creature. (b) Sets upon the woman, the weaker vessel (1 Pet. 3:7). (c) Propounds a doubtful question (Gen. 3:1). (d) Denies the truth of God’s threatenings (Rom. 5:4). (e) Gives a contrary promise and uses the name of God to confirm it (Rom. 5:5). (2) Through the woman’s fault. (a) In entering into a dispute with the devil. (b) In doubting the truth of God’s command. (c) In eating the fruit. (3) Through the man’s fault. In taking the fruit at her hands. 2. What was involved. (1) He broke the first command, by infidelity, ingratitude, contempt of God, and ambition to be like God (Gen. 3:5). (2) Hearkened to the devil’s word before God’s. (3) Pleased his wife rather than God. (4) Murdered his whole posterity (John 8:44). (5) Minded the lusts of the flesh more than the law of God. (6) Stole God’s fruit. (7) Coveted God’s attributes.
III. Through this disobedience all his posterity were made sinners. 1. By imputation. (1) In that all sinned in him (vers. 12, 16–18; Heb. 7:9, 10). (2) In that all died in him (chap. 6:23; 1 Cor. 15:22). (3) All were then in his loins; so that he was the common father of all mankind; therefore called Adam, i.e., man in general (Gen. 5:1). 2. By inhesion. All, through Adam’s sin—(1) Are born in sin (Psa. 51:5; Job 14:4; Eph. 2:3; John 3:3). Hence only is it that children die. (2) Do actually commit sin, which shows all mankind to be polluted with it and inclined to it (Eccles. 7:20; Prov. 20:9; 1 Kings 8:46; Gal. 3:22; 1 John 1:8–10). 3. The whole man is defiled with sin and continually subject to it. (1) The understanding (1 Cor. 1:19, 20; 2:14). (2) The mind and conscience (Titus 1:15). It is stupid (1 Tim. 4:2), or else troubled. (3) The memory (2 Pet. 1:21). (4) The thoughts and the imagination (Gen. 6:5), which appears in their vanity and disorder. (5) The will and affections (John 1:13; Col. 3:2). (6) The body (1 Thess. 5:23). It is not now serviceable to the soul, but a clog to it; yet it tempts it to sin. 4. Hence our original sin is the corrupt fountain from which all our actual sins flow (James 1:14). Some relics of it remain in the best saints (Gal. 5:17). Conclusion: 1. This should make us humble (Job. 15:14–16). 2. Hence we should earnestly desire to be made new creatures; and go to Christ, the Second Adam, that we may be made righteous by Him, as we are sinners by the first. (Bp. Beveridge.)
One man’s obedience and its consequences:—
- Who is this one spoken of? Note—1. All mankind being contained in, and so fallen with Adam, God raised up another Adam, by whom they might rise (1 Cor. 15:45). Who being promised, as soon as the first fell (Gen. 3:15) is called the Second Man (1 Cor. 15:47). 2. This was no less a Person than the Son of God made Man (John 1:14; 1 Tim. 3:16). For He took the nature of man into His Divine Person (Heb. 2:16). 3. Hence the whole nature of man was so fully and really contained in Him as in the first Adam (1 Cor. 15:22). 4. This, the Second Man, had an advantage over the first, that whereas the other was but a man made in the likeness of God, this was God made in the likeness of man (Phil. 2:6, 7).
- What was the obedience of this One? 1. He did no sin, was not guilty in the least (Isa. 53:9; 1 Pet. 2:22; 1 John 3:5; John 8:46). 2. He did whatsoever the law required, and so remained perfectly righteous in all things (Matt. 3:15; Heb. 7:26–28; John 15:10; 4:34). 3. He was obedient, even to death itself (Phil. 2:8); so He underwent that death which the first Adam had deserved for all mankind.
III. In what sense are many made righteous by One? In the same sense as they are sinners by one. 1. By having Christ’s righteousness as we had Adam’s sin imputed to us. (1) No man can be pronounced righteous by God, unless he be really so (Prov. 17:15; Isa. 5:23). (2) But no man is really righteous in himself (Eccles. 7:20). (3) Hence it is impossible we should be accepted as righteous before God, unless we have some other righteousness imputed to us (chap. 4:6, 11). (4) Hence Christ was pleased to be obedient even unto death for us; that so by His obedience imputed to us we might be accepted as righteous. For—(a) Our righteousness is plainly asserted to be only in Christ (2 Cor. 5:21). He was made sin for us. Our sins were laid on Him (Isa. 53:6); so His righteousness on us (Phil. 3:8, 9; Eph. 1:6). (b) He is expressly called “Our righteousness” (Jer. 23:6; 33:16; 1 Cor. 1:30). (c) He is called our Surety (Heb. 7:22), who, being bound for us, paid in our stead what the law required of us. (d) Christ’s whole obedience was only upon our account, and for our sakes (Gal. 4:4, 5); so that by His obedience the law is perfectly fulfilled in us (chap. 8:3, 4). 2. We are made righteous by Christ as sinners by Adam, inherently. He—(1) Mortifies our sins (1 John 3:8; Acts 3:26; 1 John 1:7–9). (2) Gives repentance (Acts 5:31). (3) Sanctifies our whole nature (1 Cor. 1:30; 6:11; Eph. 5:25–27). (4) Enables us to do good works (John 15:4, 5; Titus 2:14; Phil. 4:11–13). Conclusion: 1. Thank God for Christ. 2. Put your whole trust in Him only, for grace as well as pardon. 3. Let it be your great care to be in the number of those who are made righteous in Christ, in believing in Him. 4. Live as becometh righteous persons. (Ibid.)
Man’s first sin:—Is there a human being to be found who, after reflection, and speaking honestly, would affirm of himself, “I have never sinned”? We are aware of the existence of great ignorance concerning the extent of sin, and the evil of sin; and we know men are exceedingly reluctant to confess even those sins of which they are conscious; but we do not think there is a man who, after serious reflection, is entirely unconscious of guilt. Furthermore, is there a man who would say of a fellow human being, however dearly loved and highly prized, “I do not believe that person has ever sinned”? Verily, our consciousness and our observation confirm the Bible doctrine, “There is none that doeth good; no, not one!”
- The fact and the circumstances of man’s first sin. 1. The first sin was Adam’s failure under trial as the representative of the human race. Say that this test was simple; then how adapted to inexperience, and how fitted to show whether, in filial dependence, man would serve God or not. Do you refuse to judge of the quarter whence the wind blows by the course of the thistle-down, or by the path of the smoke; and would you wait for information until you could see the vane of some lofty tower? Do you not measure the heat of a summer’s day by the moistened brow, and judge of the cold of winter by the smarting skin, far more frequently than by the scale of the thermometer? 2. Man was specially tempted to the first sin. 3. Temptation was necessary in man’s probation. Could probation be conducted apart from this trying process? Is not the coin tested in the balance? Is not silver proved in the fining pot? Is not gold tried in the furnace? Are not the elements of a chemical compound made manifest by analysis? Is not the strength of metal or timber relied upon after proof? As in our law courts, no prisoner is recognised as guilty until his crime has been proved; so, in God’s moral government, no procedure is based on character until the character is made manifest by the light of conduct. 4. The first sin of man was (tested by any standard) a great transgression. Actions must be judged by the principle involved in them. In eating the forbidden fruit did not Adam transgress a law? In transgressing this law did not Adam reject the Divine authority and cast off his allegiance to God? In thus sinning did not Adam resist the power of the strongest motives on the side of obedience?—motives arising from his obligations to the kindness of God; motives connected with the full and flowing fountains of pleasure and of advantage by which he was encompassed; and from the fact that he was being proved, and that upon his conduct were suspended tremendous results? Moreover the image of God was within him—revelations of God surrounded him; and under the power of these multiplied motives and influences his attention was fixed on one defined, intelligible, and distinct requirement. It was not an easy thing for Adam to sin against God. (1) Observe that human nature, at its best state, is not to be trusted; and that it universally fails where the failure is of most consequence. (2) See the tremendous responsibility which our influence over each other involves. (3) Learn the utility of experience in the trial of temptation. (4) Look, by the aid of the facts we are considering, into the philosophy of sinning.
- The results of man’s first sin. Trace them in the transgressors themselves. We know not what interval existed between the evil act and a sense of its iniquity. Delusion may have continued through some time. At length, however, an inward monitor gave notice of the fault; disapprobation and self-condemnation, with their keen smart, succeeded; and Adam tasted the bitterness of sin. 1. Learn hence the enormous evil of any one sin; and profit in this department of knowledge by the experience of others. 2. Know also the certainty of punishment where pardon is not vouchsafed. 3. Mark the limit of Divine interference with human conduct. (S. Martin.)
Man’s disobedience and Christ’s obedience:—
- Man’s disobedience. 1. Its consequences. 2. Perpetration. 3. Extent.
- Christ’s obedience. 1. Its nature. 2. Operation. 3. Result. (J. Lyth, D.D.)
The condition of man a sinner and man made righteous contrasted:—1. Unbelief and faith. 2. Enmity and love. 3. Banishment from God and acceptance with God. 4. Disobedience and righteousness. 5. Misery and bliss. 6. Curse and blessing. 7. Death and life. 8. Paradise lost and paradise regained. (D. M’Nicoll.)
Of our fall in Adam:—Consider—1. Who that one man was. Adam (ver. 14). 2. What his disobedience was. His first sin, the eating of the forbidden fruit, which opened the door to death (ver. 12). 3. Whom it concerned; “many”; the “all” (ver. 14). The alteration is not without reason, for there is an exception here of Christ. It reached many men, but not all simply; he, and he only, was excepted. 4. How it touched them; they were “made sinners” by it. There are two ways how men might be made sinners by the disobedience of Adam, viz., either by imputation or imitation. The last is not meant. (1) Because some of those many who are made sinners are not capable of imitation or actual sin, viz., infants. (2) Because we are made righteous, not by the imitation, but imputation of Christ’s righteousness; but as we are made righteous by the one, so we are made sinners by the other.
- What sin of Adam’s it was that they who sinned and fell with him, sinned and fell in. His first sin, the eating of the forbidden fruit. This was the sin that broke the covenant of works. Other sins of Adam are not imputed to them, more than those of any other private persons. So then, Adam quickly betaking himself to the covenant of grace, and placing himself under another head as a private man, ceased to be the head in the covenant of works. Adam had all his children in one ship to carry them to Immanuel’s land; by his negligence he dashed the ship on a rock, and broke it all in pieces; and so he and his lay foundering in a sea of guilt. Jesus Christ lets out the second covenant as a rope to draw them to the shore. Adam for himself lays hold on it, while others hold by the broken boards of the ship, till they be by the power of grace enabled to quit them too, as he was.
- Who were they that sinned and fell in Adam. All mankind, descending from him by ordinary generation. So—1. Christ is excepted. Adam’s sin was not imputed to the man Christ. He was separated from sinners (Heb. 7:26), and was not infected with the plague whereof He was to be the cleanser. And so Christ comes not in under Adam as head, but, as in the text, is opposed to Adam as another head. Christ was indeed a Son of Adam (Luke 3) And it was necessary He should be so, that He might be our near kinsman, and that the same nature that sinned might suffer. But He came not of him by ordinary generation—He was born of a virgin. And upon this account He came not in under Adam in the covenant of works; for Christ was not born by virtue of that blessing of marriage given before the fall (Gen. 1:28), but by virtue of a covenant-promise made after the fall (Gen. 3:15). So that Adam could represent none in that covenant, but such as were to spring from him by virtue of that blessing. 2. All mankind besides sinned and fell with Adam in that first transgression. His sin of eating the forbidden fruit is imputed to them. Consider—(1) The Scripture plainly testifies that all sinned in him (ver. 12). Hence it is plain that death has not come into the world but in pursuit of sin; all die, for all have sinned. (2) All fell with him into misery by that sin. Now, a just God will not involve the innocent with the guilty in the same punishment. (a) All fell under condemnation (vers. 16, 18). (b) All fell under the loss of God’s image, and the corruption of nature with him (Psa. 51:5). (c) All the punishments inflicted on Adam and Eve, for that sin, as specified in Gen. 3, are common to mankind, their posterity; and therefore the sin must be so too.
III. How the first sin of Adam comes to be imputed to us. The great reason of this is, because we are all included in Adam’s covenant. The covenant was made with him, not only for himself, but for all his posterity. 1. Consider here—(1) It was the covenant of works, the condition whereof was perfect obedience. (2) It was made with Adam for himself. That was the way he himself was to attain perfect happiness; his own stock was in that ship. (3) It was made not only for himself, but for all his posterity descending from him by ordinary generation. So that he was not here as a private, but as a public person, the moral head and representative of all mankind. Hence the Scripture holds forth Adam and Christ, as if there had never been any but these two men in the world (1 Cor. 15:47). And this he does, because they were two public persons, each of them having under them persons represented by them (vers. 14, 18). 2. But some may be ready to say, we made not choice of Adam for that purpose. Answer—(1) God made the choice, who was as meet to make it for us as we for ourselves. And “who art thou that repliest against God?” (2) Adam was our natural head, the common father of as all (Acts 17:26), and who was so meet to be trusted with the concerns of all mankind as he? 3. But to clear further the reasonableness of this imputation, consider—(1) Adam’s sin is imputed to us, because it is ours. For God doth not reckon a thing ours, which is not so (chap. 2:2). If a person that has the plague infect others, and they die, they die, by their own plague, and not by that of another. (2) It was free for God either to have annihilated all mankind, or to have given them no promise of eternal life. Was it not, then, an act of grace in God to make such a rich covenant as this? and would not men have consented to this representation gladly in this case? (3) Adam being made after the image of God (Gen. 1:26) was as capable to stand as any afterwards could be for themselves; and this was a trial that would soon have been over, while the other would have been continually a-doing, had men been created independent of him. (4) He had natural affection the strongest to engage him. He was our father, and all we the children that were in his loins, to whom we had as good ground to trust as to any other creature. (5) His own stuck was in the ship; his all lay at stake as well as ours. Forgetting our interest, he behoved to disregard his own, for he had no separate interest from ours. No man quarrels, that when a master sets his land in tack to a man and his heirs upon conditions, if the first possessor break the bargain, the heirs be denuded of it. (6) All that quarrel with this dispensation must renounce their part in Christ; for we are made righteous by Him, as sinners are made guilty by Adam. If we fall in with the one, why not with the other? We chose Christ for our head in the second covenant no more than we did Adam in the first covenant.
- Inferences. 1. See the dreadful nature of sin; one sin could destroy a world. 2. Let this be a lesson to parents to do nothing that may bring ruin on their children. Many times children are destroyed by their parents through their bad example and government. 3. This doctrine affords a lesson of humility to all. The rich have no cause to boast of their wealth, for they have as sad a heritage as the poor and needy. 4. View and wonder at the redemption purchased for sinners by Christ. 5. Quit your hold of the first Adam and his covenant, and come to and unite with Christ by faith, and lay hold on His covenant (1 Cor. 15:22). (T. Boston, D.D.)
The fall and the atonement:—These are the two main facts involved in the text. Round these there has gathered a vast cloud of theological formulas which render it difficult to discern them in their simplicity and integrity. I have a few suggestions to make, which are simple and hang well together. 1. We can hardly begin to reflect on the fall without asking, “Why did God permit it? why make man so that he not only could, but almost must, fall away from his original righteousness?” The very moment we begin to reflect on the fall we are confronted by the origin of evil. Why did God permit it to invade and stain His universe? 2. So, again, with that other fact, “How could the obedience, or sacrifice, of the one just Man avail for the salvation of the whole sinful race? How is it so to tell on those who have fallen from righteousness as to recover them to the love and service of righteousness? To tell us that these problems are insoluble is to contradict the inspired apostle. To warn us against intermeddling with them is to pour contempt on the labours of eighteen centuries. And, worse still, it is to bid us suppress an inbred and unconquerable tendency, viz., that when we believe certain facts we cannot but try to frame some reasonable conception of them, in which each shall hold its due place and form part of an intelligible and harmonious whole.
- The fall. 1. We start from a point familiar and approved. (1) If God were to surround Himself, not with mere automata that would mechanically obey the impulses of His will, but with creatures capable of love and obedience. He must give them wills of their own and leave them free. A mechanical or compelled goodness is not a goodness at all. If the angels are incapable of sin they are also incapable of righteousness. If they are not free to choose between good and evil, but are kept by the power and will of God, then their goodness is God’s goodness, and not their own. If the stars keep their courses only by an involuntary and unconscious obedience to natural laws, there is nothing noble, because there is nothing free, in their obedience. But if, as some of our poets have dreamed, each “heavenly body” is but the vesture of some great spirit, then the very stars become moral, because voluntary, agents, who render a willing and constant obedience to the laws imposed upon them. 2. Now, what the choice of God would be we may infer from our own preference. Just as we prefer to have even a dog about us to all the mechanical toys ever invented: or just as we love to have children about us whose love we can win, who are capable of a true because voluntary goodness, so we may reasonably believe God would choose to surround Himself with many orders of creatures, each capable of loving Him of its own will, and of rendering Him a free and glad obedience. 3. But this very capacity involves an alternative. Those who can freely lift their wills into accord with the will of God, can also deflect their wills from His. And was it not well-nigh inevitable that, in the infinite possibilities of existence, some of them should strike out a path for themselves, and take that rather than keep the path marked out for them by God? How else were they to prove to themselves that their wills were their own, and free? 4. This free will, if a great is also a most perilous endowment; for there is a certain charm in asserting it. It is not mere depravity which prompts a child to do that which he knows he ought not to do. The temptation, although he may be unconscious of it, is the charm of assuring himself and showing others that he is free, that he is not a mere link in the chain of necessity, not a mere pipe in the fingers of others to sound what stop they please. Who has not felt this fascination, and done that which he knew would yield him neither pleasure nor profit, simply in order that he might feel and assert his freedom? And who that has felt this charm can doubt that when myriads of creatures had been called into being gifted with free will, some of them would be sure to prove their freedom by trying whether or not their wills were their own? 5. Our argument leads us straight into that great mystery—the origin of evil. Evil is in the world, in the universe, by no Divine fiat or decree. It is not of God’s making, but of our own. And from this gift of a will free to select its own path and take its own course have sprung all the miseries of evil. What God intended for our good, as our special honour and distinction, we have turned to our own harm. But before any man complains that so perilous a gift has been conferred upon him, and that he is called to rule and control it, let him remember the alternative—incapability of conscious and voluntary choice of righteousness and love. If any man would prefer to sink so low as that, it certainly is hard to see what God made him a man for. But does any such man exist?
- Its consequences. When men, in the exercise of their free will, have fallen into sin, they begin to make excuse. They say, “It is human to err. Sin is common to all; how, then, can I hope to escape it?” This is one of the saddest consequences. 2. Men condemn even while they excuse themselves. All the while they feel that sin has alienated them from the life of God; that He is displeased with them; that they are debased; and that God must be propitiated. And thus men are made both reckless and hopeless. On the one hand, sin seems so human, so inevitable, that it can hardly be very wrong; and, on the other hand, it is so alien to God that He can hardly be expected to pardon it.
III. From these consequences we get some of our best and simplest conceptions of redemption. 1. What is the answer of the Divine grace to the feeling of doubt and despair? It is this. While we are yet sinners, God, in the person of His Son, comes down and dwells among us. He virtually says to us, “See, much as I hate the sins which have degraded and enslaved you, fellowship with Me is not impossible. I am in your midst to bless you by turning every one of you away from your sins. So far from being separated from you, I have become one with you, that you may become one with Me, partaking your nature that you may partake Mine.” 2. Men say, “It is human to sin; so long as we are men we can hardly hope to avoid it.” “Nay,” replies Christ; “for, see, I, too, am a man; and which of you convicteth Me of sin? So far from sin being an essential part of manhood, or a necessary adjunct of it, you feel that I am a higher style of man, precisely because I never at any time transgressed My Father’s commandments, because I make it My will to do His will.” This, then, is a chief way in which the redemption of Christ comes to tell on men, in which they are atoned to the God against whom they have sinned. Our wills are ours, then; but they are ours that we may make them His. And not till we do make them His shall we be recovered from the fall, and know the power of His redemption. (S. Cox, D.D.)
The Lord our righteousness:—
- The obedience of Christ. 1. Personally and privately, in regard to His own moral character. He fulfilled all righteousness. He alone, of all the human race, has maintained from first to last a perfectly spotless character before the tribunal of God. 2. Officially, Christ’s obedience was equally perfect. He came into the world to fulfil a public mission, as the Lord’s servant, and at the close it was not necessary for Him to bewail shortcomings or to avow Himself an unprofitable servant (John 17:4). Nor was His an easy task. He needed more meekness than Moses, more wisdom than Solomon, more watchfulness than Isaiah, and more courage than Daniel. Yet never in all His public course did He betray an unworthy spirit or act unwisely. No doing or saying of His requires to be covered with the cloak of charity. 3. As a sacrificial victim for sin, we find Christ equally obedient. He received this commandment from the Father, that He should lay down His life for His sheep. This He was to do by surrendering Himself into the hands of wicked men. He might have refused and have consumed His enemies. He might have come down even from the Cross, and declined to shed His heart’s best blood for such a thankless race; but no, He submitted to it all without a murmur. His own language was, “The cup which My Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it?” (cf. Isa. 53:4–6, 10; Phil. 2:8; Heb. 2:10).
- The way is which we are made righteous by this obedience. 1. By the eternal purpose of God Himself. He gave His Son to achieve such mighty results for us, and He accepts us in the Beloved, and imputes to us a righteousness, which is purely of grace, and through faith in Christ. “The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” 2. The ground of this imputation, undoubtedly, is the perfect obedience of Christ, our Head; and the principle of it is, that, because of our union with Christ, what belongs to Him comes to be regarded as belonging to us. He takes our sins, that we may take His righteousness. 3. Yet, in looking at Christ’s obedience as the ground of our righteousness, we must view it as a whole. We cannot say that one part of the blessing we derive from Christ is to be ascribed to His sinless life, and another to His vicarious suffering. We take a whole Christ as a whole Saviour. 4. Yet in this gift of righteousness we find these three blessings. (1) Pardon. This we have in Christ’s obedience unto death. That death owes its merits to His preceding spotless life. (2) Holiness. This relates to the present, as pardon to the past, and we owe it to Christ’s holy life, setting us an example; to His mediatorial labours, teaching us the law; and to His sacrificial death, constraining our love, and procuring for us the Spirit, by whose indwelling we are quickened, renewed, changed into the Divine likeness, and enabled to walk as becometh saints. (3) Heaven. This relates to the future. Even if we were pardoned, and made holy, we could by no means earn for ourselves a title to glory. It is God’s free gift: bestowed upon us only for the sake of the perfect obedience of Christ, who hath purchased this inheritance, and secured it for us. It is He who both washes us from our sins and makes us kings and priests unto God and His Father for ever. Conclusion: 1. Behold, then, the Scripture doctrine of substitution, which ascribes our salvation, not to our own obedience, but to the obedience of Christ. This is—(1) A conceivable arrangement: it is in harmony with equity and justice, provided only that the substituted victim of suffering be a voluntary one, and that he be not a permanent loser by what he endures. (2) An arrangement, analogous to much that we see in nature and providence, and especially to the hereditary law of association, which obtains among all mankind. (3) Necessity. For without it no member of our fallen race could ever have risen to holiness and happiness at all. (4) An accomplished reality, for Christ hath actually suffered for our sins, once for all, and put them away by the sacrifice of Himself (Heb. 9:26–28). 2. A few practical inferences. (1) Christian believer, see your dependence on Jesus, and rejoice in it. Cultivate a simple and confiding faith in Him, and believe that if your salvation be the reward of His obedience, there is no limit to what God is able and willing to do for you. (2) Penitent inquirer, behold the way of righteousness, and walk in it. Come, as a sinner, to the throne of grace; and ceasing from your own works, enter by faith into spiritual rest. (3) Ye unconverted, we point you to the Cross. There see what sin has done. Reflect, repent, return unto the Lord, for He will have mercy upon you, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon. (T. G, Horton.)
The mechanism of heredity:—Why should children, born with tainted constitutions and damaged prospects, suffer blamelessly for their father’s iniquity? Precisely as, on the contrary, children benefit gratuitously through the goodness of their parent. For the marvellous mechanism of heredity does not merely transmit evil. It is also, and indeed preponderantly, the machinery by which the physical, mental, and spiritual acquisitions of bygone generations—the accumulated and stored wealth of the ages—are conveyed to the future and preserved for posterity. There is an inheritance of strength and intellect, grace and goodness, as well as of disease and vice and evil. Nay, this last is but a misuse and perversion of God’s beneficent and stupendous contrivance of heredity. To escape the entail of ill, you must snap the mechanism of transmission, and so forfeit the entail of blessing. It is as if you should propose that each generation’s acquisition of property, tools, inventions, arts, and appliances should be destroyed, and the next generation compelled to begin afresh on the bare, barren soil. Progress were impossible, civilisation but the rolling of a Sisyphus’ stone, the human race no longer an organic unity, without continuity, without history, without moral solidarity. Take from my life and actions this awful prerogative of the transmission of good and evil, and you rob it of all dignity and depth of perspective; you degrade it to the narrowest dimensions of self-centred insignificance; you divest my actions of all far-reaching influence and unselfish consequence; you isolate my being from all impersonal interests and ennobling sympathies. Cut asunder the fine meshes of heredity, and you dissolve the ties of affection that bind the generations together, and reduce humanity to a chaos of trivial atoms, without roots in the past, without part in futurity, devoid of large possibilities of achievement, and therefore destitute of strong moral motive. Heredity ordained by Heaven for blessing, through sin becomes a vehicle of evil. (Prof. Elmslie, D.D.)
19. As by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous. As in verse 15, the twofold ‘many’ is literally ‘the many’. The second clause here is probably a deliberate echo of Isaiah 53:11, where the obedient Servant causes the many (MT, lxx) ‘to be accounted righteous’. From the second clause, ‘the many’ is introduced into the first clause by way of balance (and the influence of Isaiah 53:11 may also be present in the twofold ‘the many’ of verse 15). ‘O the sweet exchange, O the inscrutable creation, O the unlooked-for benefits, that the sin of many should be put out of sight in one righteous man, and the righteousness of one should justify many sinners!’ (Epistle to Diognetus 9.5). The obedience of Christ accomplished more than Abraham’s could ever have done; by his passion and triumph he has won the right and power to beat back the hostile cosmic forces—to ‘retrieve the cosmic situation’, as C. K. Barrett puts it—and ensure for his people participation in his victory.
19. This is no tautology, but a necessary explanation of the former verse. For he shows that we are guilty through the offence of one man, in such a manner as not to be ourselves innocent. He had said before, that we are condemned; but that no one might claim for himself innocency, he also subjoined, that every one is condemned because he is a sinner. And then, as he declares that we are made righteous through the obedience of Christ, we hence conclude that Christ, in satisfying the Father, has provided a righteousness for us. It then follows, that righteousness is in Christ, and that it is to be received by us as what peculiarly belongs to him. He at the same time shows what sort of righteousness it is, by calling it obedience. And here let us especially observe what we must bring into God’s presence, if we seek to be justified by works, even obedience to the law, not to this or to that part, but in every respect perfect; for when a just man falls, all his former righteousness will not be remembered. We may also hence learn, how false are the schemes which they take to pacify God, who of themselves devise what they obtrude on him. For then only we truly worship him when we follow what he has commanded us, and render obedience to his word. Away then with those who confidently lay claim to the righteousness of works, which cannot otherwise exist than when there is a full and complete observance of the law; and it is certain that this is nowhere to be found. We also learn, that they are madly foolish who vaunt before God of works invented by themselves, which he regards as the filthiest things; for obedience is better than sacrifices.
5:19 many will be made righteous. Ancient Judaism harbored the illusion that obeying the Torah would make one righteous, and Paul counters that the mere attempt to obey the Torah makes one a sinner because that effort is itself an act of hubris in the light of the advent of the gospel. Rather, faith in Christ is the divinely prescribed means for becoming righteous. The reference to Christ’s obedience no doubt refers to his death on the cross (cf. Phil. 2:8) rather than to his obedient life as a whole. This is because Paul alludes to Isaiah 53:11 in 5:19. The Suffering Servant made “many” righteous by his death, just as Christ did by his death.
19 In case we have missed his main point, Paul reiterates it in this verse, using the same basic structure as in v. 18 but with different language. In contrast to the “all people” of v. 18, Paul denotes those who are affected by the acts of Adam and Christ by “the many” (as in v. 15). Two other differences are more important, suggesting that v. 19 is not just the repetition of v. 18, but its elaboration.
(1) Paul calls Adam’s destiny-determining action an “act of disobedience” (parakoē) rather than simply a “sin” (v. 12) or “trespass” (vv. 15, 17, 18). The characterization is, of course, a fair one since Adam and Eve had been explicitly told not to eat the fruit of the tree. In keeping with the careful contrasts that Paul has used throughout the passage, then, Christ’s work is characterized as “an act of obedience” (hypakoē). Paul may be thinking of the “active obedience” of Christ, his lifelong commitment to do his Father’s will and so fulfill the demands of the law. But Paul’s focus seems rather to be on Jesus’ death as the ultimate act of obedience. This is suggested by the parallel with Adam’s (one) act of disobedience. Note also the language of Phil. 2:8—Jesus “became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross”—and the consistent connection Paul makes between justification and Jesus’ death.
(2) As Paul chooses different language to characterize the era-initiating acts of Adam and Christ, so he also uses different language to describe the results of their respective acts. Rather than states, or destinies (death/life, condemnation/justification), Paul now describes these results in more personal categories: through Adam, the many “were made sinners”; through Christ, they “will be made righteous [people].” The verb that Paul uses in both phrases (kathistēmi) has a forensic flavor, often meaning “appoint.” Here it refers to the fact that people are “inaugurated into” the state of sin/righteousness. Paul is insisting that people were really “made” sinners through Adam’s act of disobedience just as they are really “made righteous” through Christ’s obedience. But this “making righteous,” in light of the focus throughout this text on one’s state or position, means not to become “morally righteous” people but to become “judicially righteous”—to be judged acquitted, cleared of all charges.281 The future tense of “made righteous” may suggest that Paul is here thinking of the final aspect of justification, the verdict rendered on the day of judgment.
In both parts of the verse, then, we are dealing with a real, though forensic, situation: people actually become sinners in solidarity with Adam—by God’s decision; people actually become “righteous” in solidarity with Christ—again, by God’s decision. But there is one important difference, plainly hinted at in the emphasis on grace throughout vv. 15–17: while our solidarity with Adam in condemnation is due to our solidarity with him in sinning, our solidarity with Christ in righteousness is not because we have acted righteously in and with Christ. While Rom. 6 suggests that we were in some sense “in Christ” when he “obeyed even unto death,” that obedience is never accounted to us as our own. In other words, while we deserve condemnation—for “all have sinned”—we are freely given righteousness and life. It is this gratuitous element on the side of Christ’s work that enables Paul to celebrate the “how much more” of our reigning in life (v. 17) and that gives to every believer absolute assurance for the life to come.
19 Verse 19 is confirmatory and explicatory of verse 18. This is apparent not only from the construction and content of verse 19 but also from the way in which they are related; verse 19 begins with “for”. “For as through the disobedience of the one man the many were constituted sinners, even so through the obedience of the one the many will be constituted righteous.” We have here again a completed comparison after the pattern of verse 18. Though the doctrine is substantially the same, new facets of this doctrine are set forth.
(1) “The disobedience of the one man.” The sin of Adam is characterized as transgression (vs. 14), as trespass (vss. 15, 17, 18), now as disobedience. Each term possesses its own emphasis and indicates that the fall of Adam was regarded by the apostle as sin in all the respects in which sin may be defined.
(2) “The many were constituted sinners.” In the preceding verses we found that death passed on to all men by reason of the sin of Adam (vss. 12, 14, 15, 17). We found also that condemnation was pronounced upon all men through the sin of Adam (vss. 16, 18). Implicit in these reiterated declarations is the solidarity that existed between Adam and posterity. It would have been a necessary inference from the solidarity in death and condemnation to posit a solidarity in sin also, because death and condemnation presuppose sin. But we are not left to inference. The apostle is now explicit to the effect that the solidarity extended to sin itself. We discovered earlier that the only feasible way of interpreting the clause in verse 12, “in that all sinned” is that this refers to the involvement of all in the sin of Adam. But again the propriety of that interpretation is demonstrated by what is now said expressly in verse 19, “through the disobedience of the one man the many were constituted sinners”. The expression used here “constituted sinners” is definitely to the effect that the many were made to be sinners, they were placed in the category of sinners. Not only did death rule over them, not only did they come under the sentence of condemnation, but sinnership itself became theirs by reason of the sin of Adam. It is here again that the variety of terms which the apostle uses to characterize sin becomes eloquent of what is meant by being constituted sinners. Sin is transgression, trespass, disobedience, and therefore solidarity in sin is involvement in the disobedience, transgression, trespass of Adam. The last clause of verse 12 likewise can mean nothing less, for it says “all sinned”. By a confluence of considerations inherent in this passage we are informed that the sin of Adam was the sin of all and the solidarity in condemnation and death is traced to its source and ground, solidarity in sin. To attempt to escape from this conclusion is to waive exegesis.
(3) “Through the obedience of the one.” This is parallel to “through one righteous act” in verse 18 and there can be no doubt but it refers to the obedience of Christ. Even if doubt should persist as to the import of the “righteous act” in verse 18 there can be no doubt in verse 19. The obedience of Christ is stated to be that through which the many are constituted righteous. The concept of obedience as applied to the work of Christ on behalf of believers is more embracive than any other (cf. Isa. 42:1; 52:13–53:12; John 6:38, 39; 10:17, 18; 17:4, 5; Gal. 4:4; Phil. 2:7, 8; Heb. 2:10; 5:8, 9). It is significant that it should be used here. It indicates the broad perspective from which we must view that accomplishment of Christ which constitutes the basis of God’s justifying act. Undoubtedly it was in the cross of Christ and the shedding of his blood that this obedience came to its climactic expression, but obedience comprehends the totality of the Father’s will as fulfilled by Christ. And this brings into the clearest focus what was implied in “the grace of the one man Jesus Christ” (vs. 15), “through the one, Jesus Christ” (vs. 17), and “through the one righteous act” (vs. 18).
(4) “The many will be constituted righteous.” The notion of being constituted righteous cannot be in a different category from the “justification” of verse 16 or “the free gift of righteousness” of verse 17 (cf. vss. 15, 16) or the “justification of life” of verse 18. We could not suppose that at this climactic point in his argument the apostle had introduced a category extraneous to the foregoing context or to his main thesis up to this point. This is to say that “constituted righteous” has the same forensic character as justification and must be a variant mode of expression. This consideration gives us the direction in which we are to interpret the antithetic expression, “constituted sinners”. While we must not tone down the latter so as to eliminate our involvement in the sin, transgression, trespass, disobedience of Adam, yet this involvement must be interpreted in forensic terms. Our involvement cannot be that of personal voluntary transgression on our part. It can only be that of imputation, that by reason of representative unity the sin of Adam is reckoned to our account and therefore reckoned as ours with all the entail of implication and consequence which sin carries with it. In the judicial judgment of God the sin of Adam is the sin of all.
Though the expression “constituted righteous” belongs strictly to the forensic sphere, yet we must not overlook the distinctive aspect from which justification is viewed in the use of this formula. Justification is a constitutive act, not barely declarative. And this constitutive act consists in our being placed in the category of righteous persons by reason of our relation to Christ. The same principle of solidarity that appears in our relation to Adam, and by reason of which we are involved in his sin, obtains in our relation to Christ. And just as the relation to Adam means the imputation to us of his disobedience, so the relation to Christ means the imputation to us of his obedience. Justification means our involvement in the obedience of Christ in terms of the same principle by which we are involved in Adam’s sin. Nothing less is demanded by the analogy instituted in this verse. Again, the involvement in the obedience of Christ is not that of our personal voluntary obedience nor that of our subjective holiness. This would violate the forensic character of the justification with which the apostle is dealing. But we must not tone down the formula “constituted righteous” to any lower terms than the gracious judgment on God’s part whereby the obedience of Christ is reckoned to our account and therefore reckoned as ours with all the entail of consequence which righteousness carries with it. This interprets for us “the free gift of righteousness” (vs. 17) of which believers become the recipients and also how “through the one righteous act” judgment comes upon them “unto justification of life” (vs. 18).
The future tense in “will be constituted righteous” must not be taken as referring to an act that is reserved for the consummation. This would violate the nature of justification as a free gift received by believers here and now in its completeness and perfection. The future tense can well be used to indicate that this act of God’s grace is being continually exercised and will continue to be exercised throughout future generations of mankind.36 In this respect it differs from the judgment by which men were constituted sinners; the latter was a judgment that passed upon all men once for all in the identification of the whole race with Adam in his sin. The change of tense intimates the progressive realization of the fruits of Christ’s obedience through the ever-continuing acts of grace in justifying the ungodly.
19 Another term for Adam’s failure occurs in v. 19, namely, “disobedience” (parakoē, GK 4157). This word accents the voluntary character of his sin. Matching it is the “obedience” (hypakoē, GK 5633) of Christ (see esp. Php 2:8). This concept was highly meaningful for Paul, as we know from Philippians 2:5–11. The interpretation of that passage along the lines of a latent comparison between Adam (unnamed, but in the background) and Christ is most satisfactory. Instead of grasping after equality with God, as Adam had done, Jesus humbled himself and became obedient, even to the point of accepting death on a cross.
The result of Christ’s obedience is that “the many will be made righteous.” Does this refer to righteous character? Possibly so, if the future tense is definitely eschatological in its thrust, pointing to the consummation in glory, when imputed righteousness will have become righteousness possessed in unblemished fullness. But “will be made righteous” may simply be the equivalent of “will become righteous” in the forensic sense, as in 2 Corinthians 5:21, in which case the future tense need not be thought of as eschatological but as embracing all who in this age are granted justification. Most of these were indeed future to Paul’s time. Paul’s thought has not shifted away from the forensic.
Does the sweeping language used (“the many” being equivalent to “all,” as argued above) suggest that all humanity will be brought within the circle of justification, so that none will be lost? Some have thought so; the language sounds that way. But if the doctrine of universalism were being taught here, Paul would be contradicting himself, for he has already pictured some as perishing because of sin (2:12; cf. 1 Co 1:18). Furthermore, his entire presentation of salvation has emphasized the fact that justification is granted only on the basis of faith. Note the implied reference to faith in the words “those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace” (v. 17). We must conclude, therefore, that only as “the many” are found in Christ can they qualify as belonging to the righteous. When it comes to describing the saving work of Christ, however, Paul does not shy away from universal language. Rather, he must portray it in absolute terms and with the broadest strokes. In principle, de jure, Christ’s obedience—his atoning death on the cross—can only be thought of as outstripping the effects of Adam’s disobedience. Paul would not be amenable to language that described the work of Christ as a “limited atonement.”
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