Bible Verse Explanations and Resources


Romans 5:21

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

That as sin hath reigned unto death - As extensively, as deeply, as universally, as sin, whether implying the act of transgression or the impure principle from which the act proceeds, or both. Hath reigned, subjected the whole earth and all its inhabitants; the whole soul, and all its powers and faculties, unto death, temporal of the body, spiritual of the soul, and eternal of both; even so, as extensively, deeply, and universally might grace reign - filling the whole earth, and pervading, purifying, and refining the whole soul: through righteousness - through this doctrine of free salvation by the blood of the Lamb, and by the principle of holiness transfused through the soul by the Holy Ghost: unto eternal life - the proper object of an immortal spirit's hope, the only sphere where the human intellect can rest, and be happy in the place and state where God is; where he is seen As He Is; and where he can be enjoyed with out interruption in an eternal progression of knowledge and beatitude: by Jesus Christ our Lord - as the cause of our salvation, the means by which it is communicated, and the source whence it springs. Thus we find, that the salvation from sin here is as extensive and complete as the guilt and contamination of sin; death is conquered, hell disappointed, the devil confounded, and sin totally destroyed. Here is glorying: To him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and has made us kings and priests to God and his Father, be glory and dominion, for ever and ever. Amen. Hallelujah! The Lord God Omnipotent reigneth! Amen and Amen.

What highly interesting and momentous truths does the preceding chapter bring to our view! No less than the doctrine of the fall of man from original righteousness; and the redemption of the world by the incarnation and death of Christ. On the subject of the Fall, though I have spoken much in the notes on Genesis, chap. 3, yet it may be necessary to make a few farther observations: -

  1. That all mankind have fallen under the empire of death, through this original transgression, the apostle most positively asserts; and few men who profess to believe the Bible, pretend to dispute. This point is indeed ably stated, argued, and proved by Dr. Taylor, from whose observations the preceding notes are considerably enriched. But there is one point which I think not less evident, which he has not only not included in his argument, but, as far as it came in his way, has argued against it, viz. the degeneracy and moral corruption of the human soul. As no man can account for the death brought into the world but on the ground of this primitive transgression, so none can account for the moral evil that is in the world on any other ground. It is a fact, that every human being brings into the world with him the seeds of dissolution and mortality. Into this state we are fallen, according to Divine revelation, through the one offense of Adam. This fact is proved by the mortality of all men. It is not less a fact, that every man that is born into the world brings with him the seeds of moral evil; these he could not have derived from his Maker; for the most pure and holy God can make nothing impure, imperfect, or unholy. Into this state we are reduced, according to the Scripture, by the transgression of Adam; for by this one man sin entered into the world, as well as death.
  • The fact that all come into the world with sinful propensities is proved by another fact, that every man sins; that sin is his first work, and that no exception to this has ever been noticed, except in the human nature of Jesus Christ; and that exempt case is sufficiently accounted for from this circumstance, that it did not come in the common way of natural generation.
  • As like produces its like, if Adam became mortal and sinful, he could not communicate properties which he did not possess; and he must transmit those which constituted his natural and moral likeness: therefore all his posterity must resemble himself. Nothing less than a constant miraculous energy, presiding over the formation and development of every human body and soul, could prevent the seeds of natural and moral evil from being propagated. That these seeds are not produced in men by their own personal transgressions, is most positively asserted by the apostle in the preceding chapter; and that they exist before the human being is capable of actual transgression, or of the exercise of will and judgment, so as to prefer and determine, is evident to the most superficial observer:
  • 1st, from the most marked evil propensities of children, long before reason can have any influence or control over passion; and,

    2ndly, it is demonstrated by the death of millions in a state of infancy. It could not, therefore, be personal transgression that produced the evil propensities in the one case, nor death in the other.

    1. While misery, death, and sin are in the world, we shall have incontrovertible proofs of the fall of man. Men may dispute against the doctrine of original sin; but such facts as the above will be a standing irrefragable argument against every thing that can be advanced against the doctrine itself.
    2. The justice of permitting this general infection to become diffused has been strongly oppugned. "Why should the innocent suffer for the guilty?" As God made man to propagate his like on the earth, his transmitting the same kind of nature with which he was formed must be a necessary consequence of that propagation. He might, it is true, have cut off for ever the offending pair; but this, most evidently, did not comport with his creative designs. "But he might have rendered Adam incapable of sin." This does not appear. If he had been incapable of sinning, he would have been incapable of holiness; that is, he could not have been a free agent; or in other words he could not have been an intelligent or intellectual being; he must have been a mass of inert and unconscious matter. "But God might have cut them off and created a new race." He certainly might; and what would have been gained by this? Why, just nothing. The second creation, if of intelligent beings at all, must have been precisely similar to the first; and the circumstances in which these last were to be placed, must be exactly such as infinite wisdom saw to be the most proper for their predecessors, and consequently, the most proper for them. They also must have been in a state of probation; they also must have been placed under a law; this law must be guarded by penal sanctions; the possibility of transgression must be the same in the second case as in the first; and the lapse as probable, because as possible to this second race of human beings as it was to their predecessors. It was better, therefore, to let the same pair continue to fulfill the great end of their creation, by propagating their like upon the earth; and to introduce an antidote to the poison, and by a dispensation as strongly expressive of wisdom as of goodness, to make the ills of life, which were the consequences of their transgression, the means of correcting the evil, and through the wondrous economy of grace, sanctifying even these to the eternal good of the soul.
    3. Had not God provided a Redeemer, he, no doubt, would have terminated the whole mortal story, by cutting off the original transgressors; for it would have been unjust to permit them to propagate their like in such circumstances, that their offspring must be unavoidably and eternally wretched.

    God has therefore provided such a Savior, the merit of whose passion and death should apply to every human being, and should infinitely transcend the demerit of the original transgression, and put every soul that received that grace (and All may) into a state of greater excellence and glory than that was, or could have been, from which Adam, by transgressing, fell.

    1. The state of infants dying before they are capable of hearing the Gospel, and the state of heathens who have no opportunity of knowing how to escape from their corruption and misery, have been urged as cases of peculiar hardship. But, first, there is no evidence in the whole book of God that any child dies eternally for Adam's sin. Nothing of this kind is intimated in the Bible; and, as Jesus took upon him human nature, and condescended to be born of a woman in a state of perfect helpless infancy, he has, consequently, sanctified this state, and has said, without limitation or exception, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of God. We may justly infer, and all the justice as well as the mercy of the Godhead supports the inference, that all human beings, dying in an infant state, are regenerated by that grace of God which bringeth salvation to all men, Titus 2:11, and go infallibly to the kingdom of heaven. As to the Gentiles, their case is exceedingly clear. The apostle has determined this; see Romans 2:14, Romans 2:15, and the notes there. He who, in the course of his providence, has withheld from them the letter of his word, has not denied them the light and influence of his Spirit; and will judge them in the great day only according to the grace and means of moral improvement with which they have been favored. No man will be finally damned because he was a Gentile, but because he has not made a proper use of the grace and advantages which God had given him. Thus we see that the Judge of all the earth has done right; and we may rest assured that he will eternally act in the same way.
    2. The term Fall we use metaphorically, to signify degradation: literally, it signifies stumbling, so as to lose the centre of gravity, or the proper poise of our bodies, in consequence of which we are precipitated on the ground. The term seems to have been borrowed from the παραπτωμα of the apostle, Romans 5:15-18, which we translate offense, and which is more literally Fall, from παρα, intensive, and πιπτω, I fall; a grievous, dangerous, and ruinous fall, and is property applied to transgression and sin in general; as every act is a degradation of the soul, accompanied with hurt, and tending to destruction. The term, in this sense, is still in common use; the degradation of a man in power we term his fall; the impoverishment of a rich man we express in the same way; and when a man of piety and probity is overcome by any act of sin, we say he is fallen; he has descended from his spiritual eminence, is degraded from his spiritual excellence, is impure in his soul, and becomes again exposed to the displeasure of his God.
    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

    That as sin hath reigned - Note, Romans 5:14.

    Unto death - Producing or causing death.

    Even so - In like manner, also. The provisions of redemption are in themselves ample to meet all the ruins of the fall.

    Might grace reign - Might mercy be triumphant; see John 1:17, “Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.”

    Through righteousness - Through, or by means of, God‘s plan of justification; Note, Romans 1:17.

    Unto eternal life - This stands opposed to “death” in the former part of the verse, and shows that there the apostle had reference to eternal death. The result of God‘s plan of justification shall be to produce eternal life. The triumphs of the gospel here celebrated cannot refer to the number of the subjects, for it has not actually freed all people from the dominion of sin. But the apostle refers to the fact that the gospel is able to overcome sin of the most malignant form, of the most aggravated character, of the longest duration. Sin in all dispensations and states of things can be thus overcome; and the gospel is more than sufficient to meet all the evils of the apostasy, and to raise up the race to heaven.

    This chapter is a most precious portion of divine revelation. It brings into view the amazing evils which have resulted from the apostasy. The apostle does not attempt to deny or palliate those evils; he admits them fully; admits them in their deepest, widest, most melancholy extent; just as the physician admits the extent and ravages of the disease which he hopes to cure. At the same time, Christianity is not responsible for those evils. It did not introduce them. It finds them in existence, as a matter of sober and melancholy fact, pertaining to all the race. Christianity is no more answerable for the introduction and extent of sin, than the science of medicine is responsible for the introduction and extent of disease. Like that science, it finds a state of wide-spread evils in existence; and like that science, it is strictly a remedial system. And whether true or false, still the evils of sin exist, just as the evils of disease exist, whether the science of medicine be wellfounded or not.

    Nor does it make any difference in the existence of these evils, whether Christianity be true or false. If the Bible could be proved to be an imposition, it would not prove that people are not sinners. If the whole work of Christ could be shown to be imposture, still it would annihilate no sin, nor would it prove that man has not fallen. The fact would still remain - a fact certainly quite as universal, and quite as melancholy, as it is under the admitted truth of the Christian revelation - and a fact which the infidel is just as much concerned to account for as is the Christian. Christianity proposes a remedy; and it is permitted to the Christian to rejoice that that remedy is ample to meet all the evils; that it is just suited to recover our alienated world; and that it is destined yet to raise the race up to life, and peace, and heaven. In the provisions of that scheme we may and should triumph; and on the same principle as we may rejoice in the triumph of medicine over disease, so may we triumph in the ascendancy of the Christian plan over all the evils of the fall And while Christians thus rejoice, the infidel, the deist, the pagan, and the scoffer shall contend with these evils which their systems cannot alleviate or remove, and sink under the chilly reign of sin and death; just as people pant, and struggle, and expire under the visitations of disease, because they will not apply the proper remedies of medicine, but choose rather to leave themselves to its unchecked ravages, or to use all the nostrums of quackery in a vain attempt to arrest evils which are coming upon them.

    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
    God's Amazing Grace, 345.1

    That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 5:21. AG 345.1

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    Ellen G. White
    The Publishing Ministry, 136.3

    If you see something in a brother that needs to be corrected, go to him and say, “Let us pray about this; let us talk with God about it.” If you should weep, this will not hurt you. If you were to break your heart before God, He can bind it up and give you that grace which is unto eternal life. But God has not set you as dictators. He has not committed to you the work of punishing sinners. He desires you to search your own heart and put away your sins, to work away from every defect of character.—Manuscript 73, 1906. PM 136.3

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