Daily Reading: Romans 5:1-21
“The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more…”Romans 5:2
These verses have caused a great number of people to stumble; not into sin, but rather into the darkness of what we may see as unfair. Truly, what we read here is “unfair.” In this passage, we have the final iteration of Paul’s plea for understanding. When speaking with people, especially those who are searching and new believers, verse 18 can feel as though one smashed with a hammer an already throbbing thumb. What we must wrap our head around however, that it is not our thumb that is in primary view. Verse 18 only tells us in slightly different light that which is clearly proclaimed by almost all Biblical writers in one way or another; namely, that we are all sinners and have inherited that sinful nature from Adam. Finish the verse to find the greater contrast. Paul continues, “…through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men.”
Having read these passages, we’ve talked at some length about justification: the act of being “declared righteous.” As with all passages, it is imperative that we observe not only context, but detail as well. There are some who would say that Christ is continually “dying”, or that we have to “die”. These false statements show a lack of understanding and attention to this passage. Look at the tenses used: “through one act of righteousness”, there are not “many acts of righteousness”, but rather a single act. Again, “…through one act of righteousness there resulted…” indicates that this was done in the past tense. Just as the sin of Adam was in the past and certainly affects us today, so the one act of righteousness in Christ “resulted” (past tense with continuing results), in “…justification.” The detail is so revealing. Christ did this for us, “once for all, the just for the unjust” (1 Peter 3:18).
Note finally the contrast of obedience and disobedience. The result of Adam’s disobedience was “the many were made sinners.” His disobedience was eating the fruit, but not only eating the fruit. The underlying sin of Adam was supposing himself to be greater than God by disobeying Him. Adam placed his will above God’s. You and I may have not eaten the fruit, but have you ever placed your will above God’s and disobeyed Him? Yet, there is another contrast. Now comes Christ, who perfectly obeyed the Father to the point of death. Never did Christ place His will above the Father’s. The result is you and I being justified.
It is not as if we have no part in this process. Some have misread this passage to say that all will inherit eternal life. Paul reiterates the choice required by mankind throughout this book, perhaps most clearly in Romans 10:9-10 “…that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.”