VI. Reconciliation and the last Adam (Romans 5:1-21)
VI. Reconciliation and the last Adam (5:1-21)
5:1 In chapter 5, Paul begins to talk not only about the process of salvation, but the results of salvation. The process, as he has said before, is that we have been declared righteous by faith. While faith leads to righteousness, it also leads to peace with God. Previously, we were God’s enemies. We were at war with him. Now, through Jesus, he has drawn us close and made us his friends.
5:2-5 Faith accesses the grace that God wants to dispense in our lives, not just in salvation and sanctification, but also in tribulation. If we are in Christ, we also rejoice in our afflictions (5:3) because God is working in those afflictions for our good. Through affliction, God intends to create in us endurance, which produces proven character, and proven character produces hope (5:4). Hope, like faith, is only as good as its object. Just as our faith can only lead to salvation if it is faith in God, our hope will not disappoint us because it is the hope of God’s love . . . poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit (5:5). Even in our suffering, God’s Spirit provides a fresh experience of God’s love to us and for us.
5:6 We know love by its price tag. Authentic love is costly and sacrifices for its beloved. What, then, does it say about God’s love that in order to save us, he was willing to pay with his own Son’s life? Christ died for the ungodly because he loved us with an everlasting love. And this love is unconditional because it came while we were still helpless. He loved us when there was nothing lovely about us; we were totally unable to save ourselves.
5:7-8 In the United States, on occasions like Memorial Day, we honor the sacrifices of people who died so that others might live. Remembering these heroes brings to my mind what Paul says here, that for a good person perhaps someone might even dare to die (5:7). It’s rare for someone to lay his life down for others. It’s tremendously courageous and loving and worthy of honor. But God’s love is even bigger and more worthy of recognition than this. Jesus died, but not for friends; God proved his own love for us by dying for us while we were his enemies (5:8)! It’s as if he says to unbelievers, “I know you’re rebelling against me. But I still love you so much that I’ll go to the cross for you.” The world has never seen a love like this.
5:9-11 Paul broadens the idea of salvation by drawing on the resurrection: If the death of [God’s] Son made us reconciled to God, then how much more . . . will we be saved by his life (5:10)? The death of Jesus reconciled us to God, but Jesus didn’t stay dead. He’s alive right now. And he’s interceding for us (see Heb 7:25) in order to give us victory over the power of sin and its consequences. Think about it. If Jesus could take you from hell to heaven by dying, what he can do for you by living is even more exciting. Many believers who have accepted the saving death of Christ have yet to understand and access the saving life of Christ, which gives us victory in history.
5:12-14 By mentioning Jesus’s life, Paul reminds himself of another comparison between Jesus and the Old Testament—the connection to Adam. Adam is a type of the Coming One (5:14), a foreshadow of Jesus. We got our physical life from Adam, and we get our spiritual life from the second Adam, Christ. Both Adams give life, but only the second Adam can give us life that never ends.
There is another important commonality to point out here. Adam gave us sin through imputation. He deposited sin into our accounts so that we were born with it. Because he was our representative, when sin and death entered Adam, death spread to all people, because all sinned (5:12). The way out of death and into life is similar: Christ imputes righteousness and life into us. He is our representative, and in his righteousness we find our righteousness.
5:15 Adam may have given us life, but his main legacy is that by the one man’s trespass the many died. He left the legacy of death for us, but we don’t have any grounds to complain, because we prove every time we sin that we wouldn’t have chosen any better than he did. God’s gift of grace is not like the trespass. Unlike Adam, who gave us life and death, Jesus gives us only life. And while we earned Adam’s penalty of death, we receive the grace of God as a gift.
5:16-17 You can group the human race under two people—Adam or Christ. Every person you meet is either in Adam or in Christ, and that’s a difference with eternal consequences. The path of Adam leads to judgment, resulting in condemnation. But the path of Christ results in justification (5:16). God saves us so that we reign in life—that is, live lives of spiritual victory rather than spiritual defeat.
5:18 The sin we inherited from Adam—called original sin—is overridden by the death of Christ because through one righteous act there is justification leading to life for everyone. By “everyone,” Paul means everyone. Thus, even though we are all born sinners, Christ’s blood covers us until we reach an age of accountability, that time when a person is capable of choosing to transgress and reject his revelation. So while there is condemnation for everyone, there is divine covering through Christ for those who have not yet chosen to rebel against God’s law. This explains how babies or people born with mental handicaps are saved by Christ’s death, since original sin is no longer the issue in those cases.
5:19 We are saved by works—just not our own works. We are saved by the works of Christ. Through Christ’s obedience the many will be made righteous. Because he lived the perfect life we should have, we can share in his perfect record.
5:20-21 The law came along to multiply the trespass (5:20), which would be a tragedy without God’s intervention. But the beauty of the gospel is that where sin multiplied, grace multiplied even more (5:20). Indeed, anyone who has a deep understanding of his own sin knows this from experience: the more we see our sin as a violation of God’s perfect law, the more we stand in awe of God’s grace toward us. God’s grace, Paul says, is stronger than our sin. Sin may have reigned in death, but through Christ grace will reign through righteousness (5:21). Sin is simply not strong enough to overpower grace. Between sin and grace, in fact, grace wins every time. This is why it is essential for all believers to grow in their understanding and appreciation of the magnificent grace of God (see Titus 2:11-14; 2 Pet 3:18).