The Epistle to the Romans: Romans 5:12-21

Romans 5:12‑21  •  6 min. read  •  grade level: 10
The Epistle To The Romans: Introductory Lectures by W. Kelly (Part 5 Chapter 5:12-21)
At this point we enter upon a most important part of the epistle, on which we must dwell for a little. It is no longer a question of man's guilt, but of his nature. Hence the Apostle does not, as in the early chapters of this epistle, take up our sins, except as proofs and symptoms of sin. Accordingly, for the first time, the Spirit of God from chapter 5:12 traces the nature of man to the head of the race. This brings in the contrast with the other Head, the Lord Jesus Christ, whom we have here not as One bearing our sins in His own body on the tree, but as the spring and chief of a new family. Hence, as is shown later in the chapter, Adam is a head characterized by disobedience, who brought in death, the just penalty of sin; as on the other hand we have Him of whom he was the type, Christ, the obedient Man, who has brought in righteousness, and this after a singularly blessed sort and style—"justification of life."
Of it nothing has been heard till now. We have had justification, both by blood and also in virtue of Christ's resurrection. But "justification of life" goes farther, though involved in the latter, than the end of Romans 4; for now we learn that in the gospel there is not only a dealing with the guilt of those that are addressed in it; there is also a mighty work of God in the presenting the man in a new place before God, and in fact too for his faith, clearing him from all the consequences in which he finds himself as a man in the flesh here below.
It is here that you will find a great failure of Christendom as to this. Not that any part of the truth has escaped: it is the fatal brand of that "great house" that even the most elementary truth suffers the deepest injury; but as to this truth, it seems unknown altogether. I hope that brethren in Christ will bear with me if I press on them the importance of taking good heed to it that their souls are thoroughly grounded in this, the proper place of the Christian by Christ's death and resurrection. It must not be assumed too readily. There is a disposition continually to imagine that what is frequently spoken of must be understood; but experience will soon show that this is not the case. Even those that seek a place of separation to the Lord outside that which is now hurrying souls on to destruction are, nevertheless, deeply affected by the condition of that Christendom in which we find ourselves.
Here then it is not a question at all of pardon or remission. First of all the Apostle points out that death has come in, and all this was no consequence of law, but before it. Sin was in the world between Adam and Moses, when the law was not. This clearly takes in man, it will be observed; and this is his grand point now. The contrast of Christ with Adam takes in man universally as well as the Jew; and man in sin, alas! was true, accordingly, before the law, right through the law, and ever since the law. The Apostle is therefore plainly in the presence of the broadest possible grounds of comparison, though we shall find more too.
But the Jew might argue that it was an unjust thing in principle—this gospel, these tidings of which the Apostle was so full-for why should one man affect many, yea, all? "Not so," replies the Apostle. Why should this be so strange and incredible to you? for on your own showing, according to that word to which we all bow, you must admit that one man's sin brought in universal moral ruin and death. Proud as you may be of that which distinguishes you, it is hard to make sin and death peculiar to you, nor can you connect them even with the law particularly; the race of man is in question, and not Israel alone. There is nothing that proves this so convincingly as the book of Genesis; and the Apostle, by the Spirit of God, calmly but triumphantly summons the Jewish scriptures to demonstrate that which the Jews were so strenuously denying. Their own scriptures maintained as nothing else could that all the wretchedness which is now found in the world, and the condemnation which hangs over the race, is the fruit of one man, and indeed of one act.
Now if it was righteousness in God (and who will gainsay it?) to deal with the whole posterity of Adam as involved in death because of one, their common father, who could deny the consistency of one Man's saving? who would defraud God of that which He delights in-the blessedness of bringing in deliverance by that One Man, of whom Adam was the image? Accordingly then, he confronts the unquestionable truth, admitted by every Israelite, of the universal havoc by one man everywhere with the One Man who has brought in (not pardon only, but as we shall find) eternal life and liberty-liberty now in the free gift of life, but a liberty that will never cease for the soul's enjoyment until it has embraced the very body that still groans, and this because of the Holy Ghost who dwells in it.
Here then it is a comparison of the two great heads-Adam and Christ-and the immeasurable superiority of the second Man is shown. That is, it is not merely pardon of past sins, but deliverance from sin, and in due time from all its consequences. The Apostle has come now to the nature. This is the essential point. It is the thing which troubles a renewed conscientious soul above all, because of his surprise at finding the deep evil of the flesh and its mind after having proved the great grace of God in the gift of Christ. If I am thus pitied of God, if so truly and completely a justified man, if I am really an object of God's eternal favor, how can I have such a sense of continual evil? why am I still under bondage and misery from the constant evil of my nature, over which I seem to have no power whatever? Has God then no delivering power from this? The answer is found in this portion of our epistle (that is, from the middle of chapter 5).