Question 21b – Wherein consists the sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell?
“For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” – Rom 5:17-21 ESV
For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one, It may be rendered, “by one offence death reigned by one”; for it was the single sin of Adam, the first sin that was committed by him, which gave death its reigning power over the sons of men: “Adam, say (f) the Jewish doctors, transgressed, דאורייתא חד פקודא על, one commandment of the law,” and was the cause of death to himself, and to all the world. These words are a repetition, with a further explanation, of Rom 5:15; there it is said, “through the offence of one many be dead”; here “by one man’s offence”, or “by one offence, death reigned by one”; in which death is represented as a mighty monarch, a powerful king; and designs not only corporeal death, which has mounted the throne by sin, and is supported in its dominion by an ordinance of heaven; but also a moral or spiritual death, which has seized on all mankind, and reigns in every power and faculty of the soul of man; and likewise an eternal one, which will have power over all those, who have no part in the first resurrection: in Rom 5:15, “the grace of God, and the gift by grace”, are said to “abound unto many”; here they are said to
receive abundance of grace, and of the gift of righteousness: by abundance of grace is designed, either something distinct from the justifying righteousness of Christ; such as the abundant grace and mercy of God, in regeneration and conversion; the various graces of the Spirit then implanted; the many things then wrought in the heart; the large discoveries! of pardoning grace, and the abundance of the love of God shed abroad in the soul by the Spirit: or rather the same with “the gift of righteousness”, because of the large display of the grace of God in it; by which “righteousness” is meant, not righteousness or holiness infused into us; but the righteousness of Christ, which is a free grace gift, and is enjoyed in a way of receiving; which denotes the act of faith, and supposes giving; and hence there is no room for boasting, but great reason for thankfulness: now such persons who have received this abundant grace and free gift,
shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ; in corporeal life, they are not now subject to death as a penal evil, as other persons are, and though they die this death, they will triumph over it in the resurrection morn, they will rise again to everlasting life; they reign now in spiritual life over sin, Satan, and the world; and they will reign in eternal life, they will sit on thrones, wear crowns, and possess a kingdom of glory for ever and ever; and all by and through one, Jesus Christ, and not on account of any works, or merits of theirs.
Therefore as by the offence of one, Or by one offence, as before, the guilt of which is imputed to, and
judgment came upon all men to condemnation; which word is used in a legal sense, and intends condemnation to eternal death, as appears from the antithesis in the text; for if “justification of life”, means an adjudging to eternal life, as it certainly does, the judgment or guilt, which is unto condemnation, must design a condemnation to eternal death, the just wages of sin: and this sentence of condemnation comes upon all men, all the sons of Adam without exception, even upon the elect of God themselves; though it is not executed upon them, but on their surety, whereby they are delivered from it:
even so by the righteousness of one, the free gift came upon all men to justification of life; the righteousness of Christ being freely imputed without works, as it is to all the men that belong to the second Adam, to all his seed and offspring, is their justification of life, or what adjudges and entitles them to eternal life. The sentence of justification was conceived in the mind of God from eternity, when his elect were ordained unto eternal life, on the foot of his Son’s righteousness; this passed on Christ at his resurrection from the dead, and on all his people as considered in him, when they, in consequence of it, were quickened together with him; and this passes upon the conscience of a sinner at believing, when he may, as he should, reckon himself alive unto God, and is what gives him a right and title to everlasting life and glory.
For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, Agreeably to this the Jews say, that “for the sin of the first man, all that are born of him, רשעים יהיו, “become wicked”.” This is the sum of what is said in the foregoing verses, that as by Adam’s sin all his posterity are made sinners, and so are brought under a sentence of condemnation; in like manner by the obedience of Christ, all his seed are made righteous, and come under a sentence of justification of life: the persons made sinners are said to be “many”, in opposition to the “one man”, by whose disobedience they became so, and because there is an exception of one, even Jesus Christ; and mean all the natural descendants of Adam, who are many, and are so called, to answer to the subjects of justification in the next clause:
what they are made sinners by, is “the disobedience of one man, Adam”; and by the first and single disobedience of his, in eating the fruit of the forbidden tree, by which they “were made sinners”: the meaning of which is not, that they became sufferers for it, or subject to death on the account of it; the word used will not bear such a sense, but signifies men guilty of sin, and sometimes the worst and chief of sinners; besides, the apostle had expressed that before; add to this, that the sons of Adam could not be sufferers for his sin, or subject to death on account of it, if they were not made sinners by it, or involved in the guilt or it: and though the posterity of Adam are habitually sinners, that is, derive corrupt nature from Adam, yet this is not meant here; but that they are become guilty, through the imputation of his sin to them; for it is by the disobedience of another they are made sinners, which must be by the imputation of that disobedience to them; he sinned, and they sinned in him, when they had as yet no actual existence; which could be no other way, than by imputation, as he was reckoned and accounted their head and representative, and they reckoned and accounted in him, and so have sinned in him. This is also evident, from the sentence of condemnation and death passing upon all men for it; and even upon those, who had not actually sinned; to which may be added, that Adam’s posterity are made sinners through his disobedience, in the same way as Christ’s seed are made righteous by his obedience, which is by the imputation of it to them; so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous; not by their own obedience; nor by their own obedience and Christ’s together; but by his sole and single obedience to the law of God: and the persons made righteous by it are not all the posterity of Adam, and yet not a few of them; but “many”, even all the elect of God, and seed of Christ; these are all made righteous in the sight of God, are justified from all their sins, and entitled to eternal life and happiness.
Moreover, the law entered, By “the law” is meant, not the law of nature, much less the law of sin; rather the ceremonial law, which came in over and above the moral law; it entered but for a time; by which sin abounded, and appeared very sinful; and through it the grace of God much more abounded, in the sacrifice of Christ prefigured by it: but the moral law, as it came by Moses, is here intended; which entered with great pomp and solemnity on Mount Sinai; and intervened, or came between Adam’s sin and Christ’s sacrifice; and also came in besides, or over and above the promise of life by Christ; and may moreover be said to enter into the conscience of a sinner, with the power and energy of the Spirit of God: and the end of its entrance is,
that the offence might abound; meaning either the sin of Adam, he had been speaking of under that name, that that itself, and the imputation of it to his posterity, and also the pollution of human nature by it, together with all the aggravating circumstances of it, might appear more manifest; or sin in general, any and all actual transgressions, which abound through the law’s discovering the evil nature of them, and so taking away all excuse, or pretext of ignorance: by prohibiting them, whereby the corrupt nature of man becomes more eager after them; and by accusing, threatening, terrifying, and condemning, on account of them: one view of the apostle in this, doubtless, is to show, that there can be no justification by the law:
but where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: sin has abounded in human nature, in all the individuals of it; and grace has superabounded in the same nature, being assumed by the Son of God, and united to him, who has appeared in it “full of grace and truth”, John 1:14, sin has abounded in all the powers and faculties of the soul, in the understanding, will, and affections, of an unregenerate man; but in regeneration, the grace of God much more abounds in the same powers and faculties, enlightening the understanding, subduing the will, and influencing the affections with love to divine things: sin abounded in the Gentile world, before the preaching of the Gospel in it; but afterwards grace did superabound in the conversion of multitudes in it from idols, to serve the living God; and where sin has abounded in particular persons to a very great height, grace has exceeded it, as in Manasseh, Mary Magdalene, Saul, and others.
That as sin hath reigned unto death, This is another end of the law’s entrance, or rather an illustration of the grace of God, by comparing the reigns of sin and grace together: sin has such a power over man in a state of nature, as amounts to a dominion; it has not only an enticing, ensnaring power, to draw into a compliance with it, and an obstructive power to hinder that which is good, and an operative one of that which is evil, and a captivating, enslaving one to the same; but it has a kingly, governing, and commanding power: its dominion is universal as to men, and with respect both to the members of the body, and faculties of the soul; it is supported by laws, which are its lusts; and has its voluntary subjects, to whom it gives wages; its reign is very cruel and tyrannical; it is “unto death” corporeal, moral, or spiritual, and eternal. The ancient Jews often represent sin in the same light; they frequently speak (h) of שולט הרע יצר, “the corruption of nature reigning” over men; and say (i): that he is מלך “a king” over the several members of the body, which answer to him at the word of command. “The old and foolish king” in Eccl 4:13, is commonly interpreted by them of sin; which they say (k) is called “a king”, because he rules in the world, over the children of men, and because all hearken to him: it is a petition much used by them (l), “let not the evil imagination or corruption of nature “rule” over me:” and on the other hand, they represent grace, or a principle of goodness, as a king, reigning over the corruption of nature; thus interpreting these words, “my son, fear thou the Lord and the king”, they ask, “who is the king? the king (say they) טוב יצר המלך, is “the good imagination”, or principle of goodness, who reigns over the evil imagination, which is called a king.” And in another place they say of a good man, that he טוב יצר המליך, “caused the good imagination to reign” over the evil one; with which in some measure agrees what follows:
even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life, by Jesus Christ our Lord; by grace is meant, either grace as it is in the heart of God; which reigns or bears sway in man’s salvation in all the parts of it, “through righteousness”; consistent with the justice of God, in a way in which that is glorified, through the redemption of Christ: it reigns “unto eternal life”; grace has promised, prepared it, and makes meet for it, and will introduce into it, and freely give it: it reigns “by Jesus Christ”; grace reigns by him, righteousness, or justice, is glorified by him, and eternal life is in him, through him, and by him: or grace as it is in the hearts of converted persons, is meant where it reigns, has the dominion, is the governing principle, and that in a way of righteousness and true holiness; and will reign until it is perfected in glory, or is crowned with eternal life; all which are by Jesus Christ, namely, grace, righteousness, and life. [Gill]
Answer – The sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell consists in the guilt of Adam’s first sin, the want of original righteousness, and the corruption of his whole nature, which is commonly called original sin, together with all actual transgressions which proceed from it.
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