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Romans 5:20

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

The law entered that (ἱνα ) the offense might abound - After considering various opinions concerning the true meaning of this verse, (see under Romans 5:12; (note)), I am induced to prefer my own, as being the most simple. By law I understand the Mosaic law. By entering in, παρεισηλθεν, or, rather, coming in privily, see Galatians 2:4, (the only place where it occurs besides), I understand the temporary or limited use of that law, which was, as far as its rites and ceremonies are considered, confined to the Jewish people, and to them only till the Messiah should come; but considered as the moral law, or rule of conscience and life, it has in its spirit and power been slipped in - introduced into every conscience, that sin might abound - that the true nature, deformity, and extent of sin might appear; for by the law is the knowledge of sin: for how can the finer deviations from a straight line be ascertained, without the application of a known straight edge? Without this rule of right, sin can only be known in a sort of general way; the innumerable deviations from positive rectitude can only be known by the application of the righteous statutes of which the law is composed. And it was necessary that this law should be given, that the true nature of sin might be seen, and that men might be the better prepared to receive the Gospel; finding that this law worketh only wrath, i.e. denounces punishment, forasmuch as all have sinned. Now, it is wisely ordered of God, that wherever the Gospel goes there the law goes also; entering every where, that sin may be seen to abound, and that men may be led to despair of salvation in any other way or on any terms but those proposed in the Gospel of Christ. Thus the sinner becomes a true penitent, and is glad, seeing the curse of the law hanging over his soul, to flee for refuge to the hope set before him in the Gospel. On the meaning of ἱνα, in various places, see Chrysost. vol. iii. p. 241. See also Hammond on the word in his notes on the New Testament.

But where sin abounded - Whether in the world, or in the heart of the individual, being discovered by this most pure and righteous law, grace did much more abound: not only pardon for all that is past is offered by the Gospel, so that all the transgressions for which the soul is condemned to death by the law, are freely and fully forgiven; but also the Holy Spirit, in the abundance of his gifts and graces, is communicated, so as to prepare the receiver for an exceeding and eternal weight of glory. Thus the grace of the Gospel not only redeems from death, and restores to life, but brings the soul into such a relationship with God, and into such a participation of eternal glory, as we have no authority to believe ever would have been the portion even of Adam himself, had he even eternally retained his innocence. Thus, where sin abounded, grace doth much more abound.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible
Verses 12-21

Romans 5:12-21 has been usually regarded as the most difficult part of the New Testament. It is not the design of these notes to enter into a minute criticism of contested points like this. They who wish to see a full discussion of the passage, may find it in the professedly critical commentaries; and especially in the commentaries of Tholuck and of Professor Stuart on the Romans. The meaning of the passage in its general bearing is not difficult; and probably the whole passage would have been found far less difficult if it had not been attached to a philosophical theory on the subject of man‘s sin, and if a strenuous and indefatigable effort had not been made to prove that it teaches what it was never designed to teach. The plain and obvious design of the passage is this, to show one of the benefits of the doctrine of justification by faith. The apostle had shown,

(1)That that doctrine produced peace, Romans 5:1.

(2)That it produces joy in the prospect of future glory, Romans 5:2.

(3)That it sustained the soul in afflictions;

(a)by the regular tendency of afflictions under the gospel, Romans 5:3-4; and,

(b)by the fact that the Holy Spirit was imparted to the believer.

(4)That this doctrine rendered it certain that we should be saved, because Christ had died for us, Romans 5:6; because this was the highest expression of love, Romans 5:7-8; and because if we had been reconciled when thus alienated, we should be saved now that we are the friends of God, Romans 5:9-10.

(5)That it led us to rejoice in God himself; produced joy in his presence, and in all his attributes.

He now proceeds to show the bearing on that great mass of evil which had been introduced into the world by sin, and to prove that the benefits of the atonement were far greater than the evils which had been introduced by the acknowledged effects of the sin of Adam. “The design is to exalt our views of the work of Christ, and of the plan of justification through him, by comparing them with the evil consequences of the sin of our first father, and by showing that the blessings in question not only extend to the removal of these evils, but far beyond this, so that the grace of the gospel has not only abounded, but superabounded.” (Prof. Stuart.) In doing this, the apostle admits, as an undoubted and well-understood fact:

1. That sin came into the world by one man, and death as the consequence. Romans 5:12.

2. That death had passed on all; even on those who had not the light of revelation, and the express commands of God, Romans 5:13-14.

3. That Adam was the figure, the type of him that was to come; that there was some sort of analogy or resemblance between the results of his act and the results of the work of Christ. That analogy consisted in the fact that the effects of his doings did not terminate on himself, but extended to numberless other persons, and that it was thus with the work of Christ, Romans 5:14. But he shows,

4. That there were very material and important differences in the two cases. There was not a perfect parallelism. The effects of the work of Christ were far more than simply to counteract the evil introduced by the sin of Adam. The differences between the effect of his act and the work of Christ are these.

(1)The sin of Adam led to condemnation. The work of Christ has an opposite tendency, Romans 5:15.

(2)The condemnation which came from the sin of Adam was the result of one offence. The work of Christ was to deliver from many offences, Romans 5:16.

(3)The work of Christ was far more abundant and overflowing in its influence. It extended deeper and further. It was more than a compensation for the evils of the fall, Romans 5:17.

5. As the act of Adam threw its influence over all people to secure their condemnation, so the work of Christ was suited to affect all people, Jews and Gentiles, in bringing them into a state by which they might be delivered from the fall, and restored to the favor of God. It was in itself adapted to produce far more and greater benefits than the crime of Adam had done evil; and was thus a glorious plan, just suited to meet the actual condition of a world of sin; and to repair the evils which apostasy had introduced. It had thus the evidence that it originated in the benevolence of God, and that it was adapted to the human condition, Romans 5:18-21.

(The learned author denies the doctrine of imputed sin, and labors to prove that it is not contained in Romans 5:12, Romans 5:19. The following introductory note is intended to exhibit the orthodox view of the subject, and meet the objections which the reader will find in the Commentary. The very first question that demands our attention is, What character did Adam sustain under the covenant of works, that of a single and independent individual. or that of the representative of the human kind?

This is one of the most important questions in Theology, and according to the answer we may be prepared to give, in the affirmative or negative, will be almost the entire complexion of our religious views. If the question be resolved in the affirmative, then what Adam did must be held as done by us, and the imputation of his guilt would seem to follow as a necessary consequence.

1. That Adam sustained the character of representative of the human race; in other words, that he was the federal as well as natural head of his descendants, is obvious from the circumstances of the history in the book of Genesis. It has been said indeed, that in the record of the threatening no mention is made of the posterity of Adam, and that on this account, all idea of federal headship or representation must be abandoned, as a mere theological figment, having no foundation in Scripture. But if God regarded Adam only in his individual capacity, when be said unto him “in the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die,” then, the other addresses of God to Adam, which form part of the same history, must be construed in the same way. And was it to Adam only, and not to the human kind at large, viewed in him, that God said, “be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth?” Was it to Adam in his individual capacity, that God gave the grant of the earth, with all its rich and varied productions? Or was it to mankind at large? Was it to Adam alone that God said, “in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground,” etc.? The universal infliction of the penalty shows, that the threatening was addressed to Adam as the federal head of the race. All toil, and sweat, and die. Indeed, the entire history favors the conclusion, that God was dealing with Adam, not in his individual, but representative capacity; nor can its consistency be preserved on any other principle.

2. Moreover, there are certain facts connected with the moral history of mankind, which present insuperable difficulties, if we deny the doctrines of representation and imputed sin. “How shall we on any other principle account for the universality of death, or rather of penal evil?” It can be traced back beyond all personal guilt. Its origin is higher. Antecedent to all actual transgression, man is visited with penal evil. He comes into the world under a necessity of dying. His whole constitution is disordered. His body and his mind bear on them the marks of a blighting curse. It is impossible on any theory to deny this. And why is man thus visited? Can the righteous God punish where there is no guilt? We muss take one side or other of the alternative, that God inflicts punishment without guilt, or that Adam‘s sin is imputed to his posterity. If we take the latter branch of the alternative, we are furnished with the ground of the divine procedure, and freed from many difficulties that press upon the opposite view.

It may be noticed in this place also, that the death of infants is a striking proof of the infliction of penal evil, prior to personal or actual sin. Their tender bodies are assailed in a multitude of instances by acute and violent diseases, that call for our sympathy the more that the sufferers cannot disclose or communicate the source of their agony. They labor with death and struggle hard in his hands, until they resign the gift of life they had retained for so short a while. It is said, indeed, that the case of infants is not introduced in Scripture in connection with this subject, and our author tells us, that they are not at all referred to in any part of this disputed passage, nor included in the clause, “death reigned, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam‘s transgression.” On this, some observations will be found in the proper place. Meanwhile, there is the fact itself, and with it we are concerned now. “Why do infants die?” Perhaps it will be said that though they have committed no actual sin, yet they have a depraved nature; but this cedes the whole question, for that depraved nature is just a part of the penal evil, formerly noticed. Why are innocent infants visited with what entails death on them? One answer only can be given, and no ingenuity can evade the conclusion, “in Adam all die.” The wonder is, that this doctrine should ever have been denied. On the human family at large, on man and woman, on infant child, and hoary sire, on earth and sky, are traced the dismal effects of the first sin.

3. The parallelism between Adam and Christ is another branch of evidence on this subject. That they bear a striking resemblance to each other is allowed on all hands. Hence, Christ is styled, in Romans 5:1-11, the apostle had fully enlarged on these benefits, and there is no evidence that Romans 5:12, Romans 5:19, are a continuation of the same theme. On the contrary, there is obviously a break in the discourse at Romans 5:12, where the apostle, recalling the discussion, introduces a new illustration of his principal point, namely, justification through the righteousness of Christ. On this the apostle had discouraged largely in Romans 5:12. Before, however, carrying out the comparison, the apostle stops to establish his position, that all people are regarded, and treated as sinners on account of Adam. His proof is this. The infliction of a penalty implies the transgression of a law, since sin is not imputed where there is no law, Romans 5:13. All mankind are subject to death or penal evils, therefore all people are regarded as transgressors of a law, Romans 5:13. The Law or covenant which brings death on all people, is not the Law of Moses, because multitudes died before that Law was given, Romans 5:14.

Nor is it the law of nature, since multitudes die who have never violated even that law, Romans 5:14. Therefore, we must conclude, that people are subject to death on account of Adam; that is, it is for the offence of one that many die, Romans 5:13-14. Adam is, therefore, a type of Christ. Yet the cases are not completely parallel. There are certain points of dissimilarity, Romans 5:15, Romans 5:17. Having thus limited and illustrated the analogy, the apostle resumes, and carries the comparison fully out in Romans 5:18-19. “Therefore as on account of one man.” etc. Prof. Hodge.)

Romans 5:12

Wherefore, - διὰ τοῦτο dia toutoOn this account. This is not an inference from what has gone before, but I a continuance of the design of the apostle to show the advantages of the plan of justification by faith; as if he had said, “The advantages of that plan have been seen in our comfort and peace, and in its sustaining power in afflictions. Further, the advantages of the plan are seen in regard to this, that it is applicable to the condition of man in a world where the sin of one man has produced so much wo and death. “On this account” also it is a matter of joy. It meets the ills of a fallen race; and it is therefore a plan adapted to man.” Thus understood, the connection and design of the passage is easily explained. In respect to the state of things into which man is fallen, the benefits of this plan may be seen, as adapted to heal the maladies, and to be commensurate with the evils which the apostasy of one man brought upon the world. This explanation is not what is usually given to this place, but it is what seems to me to be demanded by the strain of the apostle‘s reasoning. The passage is elliptical, and there is a necessity of supplying something to make out the sense.

As - ὥσπερ hōsperThis is the form of a comparison. But the other part of the comparison‘s deferred to Romans 5:18. The connection evidently requires us to understand the other part of the comparison of the work of Christ. In the rapid train of ideas in the mind of the apostle, this was deferred to make room for explanations Romans 5:13-17. “As by one man sin entered into the world, etc., so by the work of Christ a remedy has been provided, commensurate with the evils. As the sin of one man had such an influence, so the work of the Redeemer has an influence to meet and to counteract those evils.” The passage in Romans 5:13-17 is therefore to be regarded as a parenthesis thrown in for the purpose of making explanations, and to show how the cases of Adam and of Christ differed from each other.

By one man … - By means of one man; by the crime of one man. His act was the occasion of the introduction of all sin into all the world. The apostle here refers to the well known historical fact Genesis 3:6-7, without any explanation of the mode or cause, of this. He adduced it as a fact that was well known; and evidently meant to speak of it not for the purpose of explaining the mode, or even of making this the leading or prominent topic in the discussion. His main design is not to speak of the manner of the introduction of sin, but to show that the work of Christ meets and removes well-known and extensive evils. His explanations, therefore, are chiefly confined to the work of Christ. He speaks of the introduction, the spread, and the effects of sin, not as having any theory to defend on that subject, not as designing to enter into a minute description of the case, but as it was manifest on the face of things, as it stood on the historical record, and as it was understood and admitted by mankind.

Great perplexity has been introduced by forgetting the scope of the apostle‘s argument here, and by supposing that he was defending a special theory on the subject of the introduction of sin; whereas, nothing is more foreign to his design. He is showing how the plan of justification “meets well understood and acknowledged universal evils.” Those evils he refers to just as they were seen, and admitted to exist. All people see them, and feel them, and practically understand them. The truth is, that the doctrine of the fall of man, and the prevalence of sin and death, do not belong especially to Christianity any more than the introduction and spread of disease does to the science of the healing art. Christianity did not introduce sin; nor is it responsible for it The existence of sin and we belongs to the race; appertains equally to all systems of religion, and is a part of the melancholy history of man, whether Christianity be true or false.

The existence and extent of sin and death are not affected if the infidel could show that Christianity was an imposition. They would still remain. The Christian religion is just “one mode of proposing a remedy for well-known and desolating evils;” just as the science of medicine proposes a remedy for diseases ‹which it did not introduce, and which could not be stayed in their desolations, or modified, if it could be shown that the whole science of healing was pretension and quackery. Keeping this design of the apostle in view, therefore, and remembering that he is not defending or stating a theory about the introduction of sin, but that he is explaining the way in which the work of Christ delivers from a deep-felt universal evil, we shall find the explanation of this passage disencumbered of many of the difficulties with which it has been thought usually to be invested.

By one man - By Adam; see Romans 5:14. It is true that sin was literally introduced by Eve, who was first in the transgression; Genesis 3:6; 1 Timothy 2:14. But the apostle evidently is not explaining the precise mode in which sin was introduced, or making this his leading point. He therefore speaks of the introduction of sin in a popular sense, as it was generally understood. The following reasons may be suggested why the man is mentioned rather than the woman as the cause of the introduction of sin:

(1) It was the natural and usual way of expressing such an event. We say that man sinned, that man is redeemed, man dies, etc. We do not pause to indicate the sex in such expressions. So in this, he undoubtedly meant to say that it was introduced by the parentage of the human race.

(2) the name Adam in Scripture was given to the created pair, the parents of the human family, a name designating their earthly origin; Genesis 5:1-2, “In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him; male and female created he them, and blessed them, and called their name Adam.” The name Adam, therefore, used in this connection Romans 5:14, would suggest the united parentage of the human family.

(3) in transactions where man and woman are mutually concerned, it is usual to speak of the man first, on account of his being constituted superior in rank and authority.

(4) the comparison on the one side, in the apostle‘s argument, is of the man Christ Jesus; and to secure the fitness, the congruity (Stuart) of the comparison, he speaks of the man only in the previous transaction.

(5) the sin of the woman was not complete in its effects without the concurrence of the man. It was their uniting in it which was the cause of the evil. Hence, the man is especially mentioned as having reordered the offence what it was; as having completed it, and entailed its curses on the race. From these remarks it is clear that the apostle does not refer to the man here from any idea that there was any particular covenant transaction with him, but that he means to speak of it in the usual, popular sense; referring to him as being the fountain of all the woes that sin has introduced into the world.

“In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die,” Genesis 2:17. This is an account of the first great covenant transaction between God and man. It carries us back to the origin of mankind, and discloses the source of evil, about which so much has been written and spoken in vain. That God entered into covenant with Adam in innocence, is a doctrine, with which the Shorter Catechism has made us familiar from our infant years. Nor is it without higher authority. It would be improper, indeed, to apply to this transaction everything that may be supposed essential to a human compact or bargain. Whenever divine things are represented by things analogous among men, care must be taken to exclude every idea that is inconsistent with the dignity of the subject. If the analogy be pressed beyond due bounds, the subject is not illustrated, but degraded. For example, in the present case, we must not suppose that because in human covenants, the consent of parties is essential, and both are at full liberty to receive or reject the proposed terms as they shall see fit; the same thing holds true in the case of Adam. He indeed freely gave his consent to the terms of the covenant, as a holy being could not fail to do, but he was not at liberty to withhold that consent. He was a creature entirely at the divine disposal, whose duty from the moment of his being was implicit obedience. He had no power either to dictate or reject terms, The relation of parties in this covenant, renders the idea of power to withhold consent, inadmissible.

But, because the analogy cannot be pressed beyond certain limits, must we therefore entirely abandon it? Proceeding on this principle, we should speedily find it impossible to retain any term or figure, that had ever been employed about religious subjects. The leading essentials of a covenant are found in this great transaction, and no more is necessary to justify the appellation which orthodox divines have applied to it. “A covenant is a contract, or agreement, between two or more parties, on certain terms.” It is commonly supposed to imply the existence of parties, a promise, and a condition. All these constituent parts of a covenant meet in the case under review. The parties are God and man, God and the first parent of the human race; the promise is life, which though not expressly stated, is yet distinctly implied in the penalty; and the condition is obedience to the supreme will of God. In human covenants no greater penalty is incurred than the forfeiture of the promised blessing, and therefore the idea of penalty is not supposed essential to a covenant. In every case of forfeited promise, however, there is the infliction of penalty, to the exact amount of the value of the blessing lost. We cannot think of Adam losing life without the corresponding idea of suffering death. So that, in fact, the loss of the promise, and the infliction of the penalty, are nearly the same thing.

It is no valid objection to this view, that the word “covenant,” as our author tells us, (p. 137,) “is not applied in the transaction in the Bible,” for there are many terms, the accuracy of which is never disputed, that are no more to be found in the Scriptures than this. Where do we find such terms as “the fall,” and “the Trinity,” and many others that might be mentioned? The mere name, in, deed, is not a matter of very great importance, and if we allow that in the transaction itself, there were parties, and a promise, and a condition, (which cannot easily he denied,) it is of less moment whether we call it a covenant, or with our author and others, “a divine constitution.” It is obvious to remark, however, that this latter title is just as little to be found “applied in the transaction in the Bible,” as the former, and besides is more “liable to be misunderstood;” being vague and indefinite, intimating only, that Adam was under a divine law, or constitution; whereas the word “covenant” distinctly expresses the kind or form of law, and gives definite character to the whole transaction.

But although the doctrine of the covenant of works is independent of the occurrence of the name in the Scriptures, even this narrow ground of objection is not so easily maintained as some imagine. In Hosea 6:7, it is said (according to the marginal reading, which is in strict accordance with the original Hebrew,) they like Adam: כאדם k'-‘Aadamhave transgressed the covenant. And in that celebrated passage in the Epistle to the Galatians, Galatians 4:24, when Paul speaks of “the two covenants,” he alludes, in the opinion of some of the highest authorities, to the covenant of works and the covenant of grace. This opinion is espoused, and defended with great ability by the late Mr. Bell of Glasgow, one of the most distinguished theologians of his times, in a learned dissertation on the subject: Bell on the Covenants p. 85. Scripture authority, then, would seem not to be entirely lacking, even for the name.

This doctrine of the covenant is intimately connected with that of imputed sin, for if there were no covenant, there could be no covenant or representative head; and if there were no covenant head, there could be no imputation of sin. Hence, the dislike to the name.)

Sin entered into the world - He was the first sinner of the race. The word “sin” here evidently means the violation of the Law of God He was the first sinner among people, and in consequence all others became sinners. The apostle does not here refer to Satan, the tempter, though he was the suggester of evil; for his design was to discuss the effect of the plan of salvation in meeting the sins and calamities of our race. This design, therefore, did not require him to introduce the sin of another order of beings. He says, therefore, that Adam was the first sinner of the race, and that death was the consequence.

Into the world - Among mankind; John 1:10; John 3:16-17. The term “world” is often thus used to denote human beings, the race, the human family. The apostle here evidently is not discussing the doctrine of original sin, but he is stating a simple fact, intelligible to all: “The first man violated the Law of God, and, in this way, sin was introduced among human beings.” In this fact - this general, simple declaration - there is no mystery.

And death by sin - Death was the consequence of sin; or was introduced because man sinned. This is a simple statement of an obvious and well-known fact. It is repeating simply what is said in Genesis 3:19, “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return into the ground; for out of it wast thou taken; for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” The threatening was Genesis 2:17, “Of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it, for in the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die.” If an inquiry be made here, how Adam would understand this; I reply, that we have no reason to think he would understand it as referring to anything more than the loss of life as an expression of the displeasure of God. Moses does not intimate that he was learned in the nature of laws and penalties; and his narrative would lead us to suppose that this was all that would occur to Adam. And indeed, there is the highest evidence that the case admits of, that this was his understanding of it.

For in the account of the infliction of the penalty after the Law was violated; in God‘s own interpretation of it, in Genesis 3:19, there is still no reference to anything further. “Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” Now it is incredible that Adam should have understood this as referring to what has been called “spiritual death,” and to” eternal death,” when neither in the threatening, nor in the account of the infliction of the sentence, is there the slightest recorded reference to it. People have done great injury in the cause of correct interpretation by carrying their notions of doctrinal subjects to the explanation of words and phrases in the Old Testament. They have usually described Adam as endowed with all the refinement, and possessed of all the knowledge, and adorned with all the metaphysical acumen and subtility of a modern theologian. They have deemed him qualified in the very infancy of the world, to understand and discuss questions, which, under all the light of the Christian revelation, still perplex and embarrass the human mind. After these accounts of the endowments of Adam, which occupy so large a space in books of theology, one is surprised, on opening the Bible, to find how unlike all this, is the simple statement in Genesis. And the wonder cannot be suppressed that people should describe the obvious infancy of the race as superior to its highest advancement; or that the first man, just looking upon a world of wonders, imperfectly acquainted with law, and moral relations, and the effects of transgression, should be represented as endowed with knowledge which four thousand years afterward it required the advent of the Son of God to communicate!

The account in Moses is simple. Created man was told not to violate a simple law, on pain of death. He did it; and God announced to him that the sentence would be inflicted, and that he should return to the dust whence he was taken. What else this might involve, what other consequences sin might introduce, might be the subject of future developments and revelations. It is absurd to suppose that all the consequences of the violation of a law can be foreseen, or must necessarily be foreseen, in order to make the law and the penalty just. It is sufficient that the law be known; that its violation be forbidden; and what the consequences of that violation will be, must be left in great part to future developments. Even we, yet know not half the results of violating the Law of God. The murderer knows not the results fully of taking a man‘s life. He breaks a just law, and exposes himself to the numberless unseen woes which may flow from it.

We may ask, therefore, what light subsequent revelations have east on the character and result of the first sin? and whether the apostle here meant to state that the consequences of sin were in fact as limited as they must have appeared to the mind of Adam? or had subsequent developments and revelations, through four thousand years, greatly extended the right understanding of the penalty of the law? This can be answered only by inquiring in what sense the apostle Paul here uses the word “death.” The passage before us shows in what sense he intended here to use the word. In his argument it stands opposed to “the grace of God, and the gift by grace,” Romans 5:15; to “justification,” by the forgiveness of “many offences,” Romans 5:16; to the reign of the redeemed in eternal life, Romans 5:17; and to” justification of life,” Romans 5:18. To all these, the words “death‘ Romans 5:12, Romans 5:17 and “judgment” Romans 5:16, Romans 5:18 stand opposed.

These are the benefits which result from the work of Christ; and these benefits stand opposed to the evils which sin has introduced; and as it cannot be supposed that these benefits relate to temporal life, or solely to the resurrection of the body, so it cannot be that the evils involved in the words “death,” “judgment,” etc., relate simply to temporal death. The evident meaning is, that the word “death,” as used here by the apostle, refers to the train of evils which have been introduced by sin. It does not mean simply temporal death; but that group and collection of woes, including temporal death, condemnation, and exposure to eternal death, which is the consequence of transgression. The apostle often uses the word “death,” and “to die,” in this wide sense, Romans 1:32; Romans 6:16, Romans 6:23; Romans 7:5, Romans 7:10, Romans 7:13, Romans 7:24; Romans 8:2, Romans 8:6, Romans 8:13; 2 Corinthians 2:16; 2 Corinthians 7:10; Hebrews 2:14. In the same sense the word is often used elsewhere, John 8:51; John 11:26; 1 John 5:16-17; Revelation 2:11; Revelation 20:6, etc. etc.

In contrasting with this the results of the work of Christ, he describes not the resurrection merely, nor deliverance from temporal death, but eternal life in heaven; and it therefore follows that he here intends by death that gloomy and sad train of woes which sin has introduced into the world. The consequences of sin are, besides, elsewhere specified to be far more than temporal death, Ezekiel 18:4; Romans 2:8-9, Romans 2:12. Though therefore Adam might not have foreseen all the evils which were to come upon the race as the consequence of his sin, yet these evils might nevertheless follow. And the apostle, four thousand years after the reign of sin had commenced, and under the guidance of inspiration, had full opportunity to see and describe that train of woes which he comprehends under the name of death. That train included evidently temporal death, condemnation for sin, remorse of conscience, and exposure to eternal death, as the penalty of transgression.

And so - Thus. In this way it is to be accounted for that death has passed upon all people, to wit, because all people have sinned. As death followed sin in the first transgression, so it has in all; for all have sinned. There is a connection between death and sin which existed in the case of Adam, and which subsists in regard to all who sin. And as all have sinned, so death has passed upon all people.

Death passed upon - διῆλθεν diēlthenPassed through; pervaded; spread over the whole race, as pestilence passes through, or pervades a nation. Thus, death, with its train of woes, with its withering and blighting influence, has passed through the world, laying prostrate all before it.

Upon all men - Upon the race; all die.

For that - ἐφ ̓ ᾧ eph'hōThis expression has been greatly controverted; and has been very variously translated. Elsner renders it, “on account of whom.” Doddridge, “unto which all have sinned.” The Latin Vulgate renders it, “in whom (Adam) all have sinned.” The same rendering has been given by Augustine, Beza, etc. But it has never yet been shown that our translators have rendered the expression improperly. The old Syriac and the Arabic agree with the English translation in this interpretation. With this agree Calvin, Vatablus, Erasmus, etc. And this rendering is sustained also by many other considerations.

(1) if ῳ ōbe a relative pronoun here, it would refer naturally to death, as its antecedent, and not to man. But this would not make sense.

(2) if this had been its meaning, the preposition ἐν enwould have been used; see the note of Erasmus on the place.

(3) it comports with the apostle‘s argument to state a cause why all died, and not to state that people sinned in Adam. He was inquiring into the cause why death was in the world; and it would not account or that to say that all sinned in Adam. It would require an additional statement to see how that could be a cause.

(4) as his posterity had not then an existence, they could not commit actual transgression. Sin is the transgression of the Law by a moral agent; and as the interpretation “because all have sinned” meets the argument of the apostle, and as the Greek favors that certainly as much as it does the other, it is to be preferred.

All have sinned - To sin is to transgress the Law of God; to do wrong. The apostle in this expression does not say that all have sinned in Adam, or that their nature has become corrupt, which is true, but which is not affirmed here; nor that the sin of Adam is imputed to them; but simply affirms that all people have sinned. He speaks evidently of the great universal fact that all people are sinners, He is not settling a metaphysical difficulty; nor does he speak of the condition of man as he comes into the world. He speaks as other men would; he addresses himself to the common sense of the world; and is discoursing of universal, well-known facts. Here is the fact - that all people experience calamity, condemnation, death. How is this to be accounted for? The answer is, “All have sinned.” This is a sufficient answer; it meets the case. And as his design cannot be shown to be to discuss a metaphysical question about the nature of man, or about the character of infants, the passage should be interpreted according to his design, and should not be pressed to bear on that of which he says nothing, and to which the passage evidently has no reference. I understand it, therefore, as referring to the fact that people sin in their own persons, sin themselves - as, indeed, how can they sin in an other way? - and that therefore they die. If people maintain that it refers to any metaphysical properties of the nature of man, or to infants, they should not infer or suppose this, but should show distinctly that it is in the text. Where is there evidence of any such reference?

(The following note on Romans 5:12, is intended to exhibit its just connection and force. It is the first member of a comparison between Adam and Christ, which is completed in Romans 5:18-19. “As by one man,” etc. The first point which demands our attention, is the meaning of the words, “By one man sin entered into the world.” Our author has rendered them, “He was the first sinner;” and in this he follows Prof. Stewart and Dr. Taylor; the former of whom gives this explanation of the clause; that Adam “began transgression,” and the latter interprrets it by the word “commence.” It is, however, no great discovery, that sin commenced with one man, or that Adam was the first sinner. If sin commenced at all, it must have commenced with some one. And If Adam sinned at all, while yet he stood alone in the world, he must have been the first sinner of the race! President Edwards, in his reply to Dr. Taylor of Norwich, has the following animadversions on this view: “That the world was full of sin, and full of death, were too great and notorious, deeply affecting the interests of mankind; and they seemed very wonderful facts, drawing the attention of the more thinking part of mankind everywhere, who often asked this question, ‹whence comes this evil,‘ moral and natural evil? (the latter chiefly visible in death.) It is manifest the apostle here means to tell us how these came into the world, and prevail in it as they do. But all that is meant, according to Dr Tay or‘s interpretation, is ‹he began transgression,‘ as if all the apostle meant, was to tell us who happened to sin first, not how such a malady came upon the world, or how anyone in the world, besides Adam himself, came by such a distemper.” - Orig. Sin, p. 270.

The next thing that calls for remark in this verse, is the force of the connecting words “and so” καὶ οὕτως kai houtōsThey are justly rendered “in this way,.”” in this manner,” “in consequence of which.” And therefore, the meaning of the first three clauses of the first verse is, that by one man sin entered into the world. and death by sin, in consequence of which sin of this one man, death passed upon all people.

It will not do to render “and so” by “in like manner,” as Prof. Stewart does, and then explain with our author, “there is a connection between death and sin. which existed in the case of Adam, and which subsists in regard to all who sin.” This is quite contrary to the acknowledged force of καὶ οὕτως kai houtōsand besides, entirely destroys the connection which the apostle wishes to establish between the sin of the one man, and the penal evil, or death, that is in the world. It, in effect, says there is no connection whatever between those things although the language may seem to imply it and so large a portion of Christian readers in every age have understood it in this way. Adam sinned and he died, other people have sinned and they died! And yet this verse is allowed to be the first member of a comparison between Adam and Christ! Shall we supply then the other branch of the comparison, thus: Christ was righteous and lived, other people are righteous and they live? If we destroy the connection in the one case, how do we maintain it in the other? See the supplementary note.

The last clause “for that all have sinned,” is to be regarded as explanatory of the sentiment, that death passed on all, in consequence of the sin of the one man. Some have translated ἐφ ̓ ᾧ eph'hōin whom; and this, indeed, would assign the only just reason, why all are visited with penal evil on account of Adam‘s sin. All die through him, because in him all have sinned. But the translation is objectionable, on account of the distance of the antecedent. However, the common rendering gives precisely the same sense, “for that,” or “because that” all have sinned, that is, according to an explanation in Bloomfield‘s Greek Testament, “are considered guilty in the sight of God on account of Adam‘s fall. Thus, the expression may be considered equivalent to ἁμαρτωλοὶ κατεστάθησαν hamartōloi katestathēsanat Romans 5:19.” There can be no doubt that ἡμαρτον hēmartondoes bear this sense, Genesis 44:32; Genesis 43:9. Moreover, the other rendering “because all have sinned personally,” is inconsistent with fact. Infants have not sinned in this way, therefore, according to this view, their death is left unaccounted for, and so is all that evil comprehended in the term “death,” that comes upon us antecedent to actual sin. See the supplementary note.

Lastly, this interpretation would render the reasoning of the apostle inconclusive. “If,” observes Witsius, “we must understand this of some personal sin of each, the reasoning would not have been just, or worthy of the apostle. For his argument would be thus: that by the one sin of one, all were become guilty of death, because each in particular had besides this one and first sin, his own personal sin, which is inconsequential.” That people are punished for personal or actual transgression is true. But it is not the particular truth Paul seeks here to establish, any more than he seeks to prove in the previous part of his epistle, that people are justified on account of personal holiness, which is clearly no part of his design.)

Romans 5:13

For until the law … - This verse, with the following verses to the 17th, is usually regarded as a parenthesis. The Law here evidently means the Law given by Moses. “Until the commencement of that administration, or state of things under the law.” To see the reason why he referred to this period between Adam and the Law, we should recall the design of the apostle, which is, to show the exceeding grace of God in the gospel, abounding, and superabounding, as a complete remedy for all the evils introduced by sin. For this purpose he introduces three leading conditions, or states, where people sinned, and where the effects of sin were seen; in regard to each and all of which the grace of the gospel superabounded. The first was that of Adam, with its attendant train of ills Romans 5:12, which ills were all met by the death of Christ, Romans 5:15-18. The second period or condition was that long interval in which men had only the light of nature, that period occurring between Adam and Moses. This was a fair representation of the condition of the world without revelation, and without law, Romans 5:13-14. Sin then reigned - reigned everywhere where there was no law. But the grace of the gospel abounded over the evils of this state of man. The third was under the Law, Romans 5:20. The Law entered, and sin was increased, and its evils abounded. But the gospel of Christ abounded even over this, and grace triumphantly reigned. So that the plan of justification met all the evils of sin, and was adapted to remove them; sin and its consequences as flowing from Adam; sin and its consequences when there was no written revelation; and sin and its consequences under the light and terrors of the Law.

Sin was in the world - People sinned. They did what was evil.

But sin is not imputed - Is not charged against people, or they are not held guilty of it where there is no law. This is a self-evident proposition, for sin is a violation of law; and if there is no law, there can be no wrong. Assuming this as a self-evident proposition, the connection is, that there must have been a law of some kind; a “law written on their hearts,” since sin was in the world, and people could not be charged with sin, or treated as sinners, unless there was some law. The passage here states a great and important principle, that people will not be held to be guilty unless there is a law which binds them of which they are apprized, and which they voluntarily transgress; see the note at Romans 4:15. This verse, therefore, meets an objection that might be started from what had been said in Romans 4:15. The apostle had affirmed that “where no law is there is no transgression.” He here stated that all were sinners. It might be objected, that as during this long period of time they had no law, they could not be stoners. To meet this, he says that people were then in fact sinners, and were treated as such, which showed that there must have been a law.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

Moreover - But. What is said in this verse and the following, seems designed to meet the Jew, who might pretend that the Law of Moses was intended to meet the evils of sin introduced by Adam, and therefore that the scheme defended by the apostle was unnecessary. He therefore shows them that the effect of the Law of Moses was to increase rather than to diminish the sins which had been introduced into the world. And if such was the fact, it could not be pled that it was adapted to overcome the acknowledged evils of the apostasy.

The law - The Mosaic laws and institutions. The word seems to be used here to denote all the laws which were given in the Old Testament.

Entered - This word usually means to enter secretly or surreptitiously. But it appears to be used here simply in the sense that the Law came in, or was given. It came in addition to, or it supervened the state before Moses, when people were living without a revelation.

That sin … - The word “that” ἵνα hinain this place does not mean that it was the design of giving the Law that sin might abound or be increased, but that such was in fact the effect. It had this tendency, not to restrain or subdue sin, but to excite and increase it. That the word has this sense may be seen in the lexicons. The way in which the Law produces this effect is stated more fully by the apostle in Romans 7:7-11. The Law expresses the duty of man; it is spiritual and holy; it is opposed to the guilty passions and pleasures of the world; and it thus excites opposition, provokes to anger, and is the occasion by which sin is called into exercise, and shows itself in the heart. All law, where there is a disposition to do wrong, has this tendency. A command given to a child that is disposed to indulge his passions, only tends to excite anger and opposition. If the heart was holy, and there was a disposition to do right, law would have no such tendency. See this subject further illustrated in the notes at Romans 7:7-11.

The offence - The offence which had been introduced by Adam, that is, sin. Compare Romans 5:15.

Might abound - Might increase; that is, would be more apparent, more violent, more extensive. The introduction of the Mosaic Law, instead of diminishing the sins of people, only increases them.

But where sin abounded - Alike in all dispensations - before the Law, and under the Law. In all conditions of the human family before the gospel, it was the characteristic that sin was prevalent.

Grace - Favor; mercy.

Did much more abound - Superabounded. The word is used no where else in the New Testament, except in 2 Corinthians 7:4. It means that the pardoning mercy of the gospel greatly triumphed over sin, even over the sins of the Jews, though those sins were greatly aggravated by the light which they enjoyed under the advantages of divine revelation.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
By Christ and his righteousness, we have more and greater privileges than we lost by the offence of Adam. The moral law showed that many thoughts, tempers, words, and actions, were sinful, thus transgressions were multiplied. Not making sin to abound the more, but discovering the sinfulness of it, even as the letting in a clearer light into a room, discovers the dust and filth which were there before, but were not seen. The sin of Adam, and the effect of corruption in us, are the abounding of that offence which appeared on the entrance of the law. And the terrors of the law make gospel comforts the more sweet. Thus God the Holy Spirit has, by the blessed apostle, delivered to us a most important truth, full of consolation, suited to our need as sinners. Whatever one may have above another, every man is a sinner against God, stands condemned by the law, and needs pardon. A righteousness that is to justify cannot be made up of a mixture of sin and holiness. There can be no title to an eternal reward without a pure and spotless righteousness: let us look for it, even to the righteousness of Christ.
Ellen G. White
That I May Know Him, 336.5

We may claim the blessed assurance, “I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions” (Isaiah 44:22). Thy “sins, which are many, are forgiven” (Luke 7:47). O how precious, how refreshing, is the sunlight of God's love! The sinner may look upon his sin-stained life, and say, “Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died” (Romans 8:34). “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” (Romans 5:20). Christ the Restorer plants a new principle of life in the soul, and that plant grows and produces fruit. The grace of Christ purifies while it pardons, and fits men for a holy heaven. We are to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ until we reach the full stature of men and women in Christ. O that we might all reach the high standard which God has set before us, and no longer remain dwarfs in the religious life! What beams of light would be reflected to the world in good works if we should become light bearers such as God would have us!32 TMK 336.5

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Ellen G. White
Selected Messages Book 3, 339.2

God has enriched the world in these last days proportionately with the increase of ungodliness, if His people will only lay hold of His priceless gift and bind up their every interest with Him. There should be no cherished idols, and we need not dread what will come, but commit the keeping of our souls to God, as unto our faithful Creator. He will keep that which is committed to His trust.—Letter 74a, 1897. 3SM 339.2

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Ellen G. White
Selected Messages Book 1, 394

Abundant grace has been provided that the believing soul may be kept free from sin; for all heaven, with its limitless resources, has been placed at our command. We are to draw from the well of salvation. Christ is the end of law for righteousness to everyone who believeth. In ourselves we are sinners; but in Christ we are righteous. Having made us righteous through the imputed righteousness of Christ, God pronounces us just, and treats us as just. He looks upon us as His dear children. Christ works against the power of sin, and where sin abounded, grace much more abounds. “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:1, 2). 1SM 394.1

“Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” (Romans 3:24-26). “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). [John 1:14-16 quoted.] 1SM 394.2

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