Pastor’s Class Notes
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Introduction: In these verses Paul examines three important concepts:
I. THE SOLIDARITY OF THE RACE
Romans 5:19 “For as by one man’s disobedience many
were made sinners, so by the obedience
of one shall many be made righteous.”
The human race is one family, dealt with on the basis of their relationship to Adam and Christ. We are all inter-related. There is solidarity among us.
Despite all our racial and ethnic divisions, we are a great union. Blacks, whites, mongolians–we are all descendants of a common ancestor. We are kith and kin and interdependent. This you cannot escape: “No man is an island entire of itself: every man is a piece of the continent, and part of the main. . . . Every man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee” (John Donne).
Unfortunately, this commonality is based on bad blood. Our common sin is the evidence of our solidarity. The only good news about this is the fact that this universal and equal taint makes it possible for Jesus to deal with us equally.
The race is regarded as a unit, equally in need of help, and equally within access of help. We are all affected by the disobedience of Adam and the obedience of Christ.
God’s dealings with the whole race hinge on the activities of two men: Adam and Jesus. In a way, they are our representatives. Such an attitude is common in the Scriptures. God has often dealt with whole groups through individuals. Because of Abraham’s faith, his posterity was blessed and multiplied. Because of David’s devotion, he was promised that his descendants would rule as the kings of Judah. The Edomites lost their birthright because their forefather despised it. The tribe of Reuben withered into insignificance due to his sin of incest.
The principle that one can stand in for the many is also illustrated by the writer of Hebrews 7: Abraham paid homage to Melchizedek, who was a type of Christ. In that act all of Abraham’s descendants were kneeling to Christ and proving His superiority, even over Aaron and the Levitical priesthood. Hence, we see that representation is an integral teaching of Scripture.
Lest anyone scream, “Unfair! Do not put me at a disadvantage because of someone else!” let me remind you that the principle of representation is one of the most widely accepted practices among the human race. Three million Americans were declared to be independent of Britain by some fifty representatives. Every day our lives are influenced by men who represent us in government. And nowhere is the principle of representation more obvious than in warfare. The action by or against one is actually by or against the whole: On June 28, 1914, Archduke Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary was assassinated by Gavrilo Princip of Serbia. The whole nation of Austria-Hungary was soon at war with the whole nation of Serbia. Because of treaty alliances, these nations represented other countries. Hence, before long the whole world was at war. The whole world was affected by two men. Why did our country declare war after the invasion of Pearl Harbor? Because the men killed there represented us, and the men who did the killing represented Japan. We were all violated in the persons of our representatives. God also deals with us on this same basis. We are affected by the sin of Adam, but can partake in the redemption of Christ. Dealing with us by representation makes all His dealings with us fair and equitable. It also proves the solidarity of the race.
II. THE SUPERABUNDANCE OF GRACE
Romans 5:20 “Moreover the law entered, that the
offence might abound. But where sin
abounded, grace did much more abound:”
In all this talk about Adam and Jesus, the Jews would want to know where Moses and the Law fit in. Paul’s response would be a shock to the Orthodox. The Law did not alleviate or lessen sin in the world. If anything, it made man even guiltier before God. Such reasoning would infuriate the Jews, who trusted in the Law for salvation.
Paul’s statement here may have been heresy to the Jews, but it was overwhelmingly true. All men by nature know something about sin and have within them a sense of right and wrong (RM 2:15). All men sense wrongdoing within, but it is only a vague uneasiness until Law defines a particular evil as definitely being sin.
The commandments define sin. There is no longer any doubt. One no longer has to depend on the feelings of conscience. But the result is an increase in the sinfulness of sin because all excuses of ignorance are now removed.
To whom more light is given, more is expected. The one who sins with knowledge of the Law is guiltier than one who commits the same sin without knowledge of the Law. Law in and of itself does not make us better people.
Even when men know exactly what God wants them to do, they will still disobey Him. And anyone who breaks a known command is a conscious, voluntary, flagrant despiser of God’s authority. He knows the will of God, but tramples it under foot.
But do not panic!! Yes, it is true that we who have the Word of God are extremely guilty of such willful disobedience. Since we have Law, our offense abounds, increases in magnitude. Nevertheless, Praise God! The Grace of God abounds much more. Even when we knowingly and willfully transgress, the Grace of God can be extended to forgive us.
Though the sin is horrible, atrocious, abundantly evil, the Grace of God is superabundant. Pardon can always be had. No matter how far sin carries a man over the waves, Grace can waft itself farther still and retrieve him. “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (IS 1:18). In God’s color-wheel, red plus red equal white. No matter how deeply crimson and red be our sins, when the blood of Christ is applied, the result is a clean white. Your sins may abound, but Grace is superabundant. When John Bunyan wrote his own life story, he recounted his own life of cursing, lying, and blaspheming God. He “set loose the reins” to his own lust and became a ringleader in vice. Nevertheless, upon his repentance Jesus forgave him. As he looked back over his own story, Bunyan chose as the title of his autobiography “Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners.”
John Newton’s life paralleled that of Bunyan’s in many ways. He was also wild and dissolute, and deserted the British navy. He fled to Africa in order “that I might sin my fill.” He had the reputation of being able to curse for two hours without repeating himself. His sins brought him down to the gutter of existence. He was forced to serve as a slave to the slaves of a rich Portuguese slave trader. The slaves delighted in tormenting him. They made him crawl in the dirt and pick up his food with his mouth from the ground. If he tried to touch the food with his hand, a slave would lash him. He finally withered to skin and bones. He escaped with the help of a ship’s captain. John showed his appreciation by stealing the ship’s rum and getting the whole crew drunk. When the captain returned, he hit Newton so hard he fell overboard. He was drowning in his drunken condition when a sailor speared him in the thigh with a boathook. The resulting wound was so deep that afterwards Newton could put his fist into the scar. Nevertheless, one night in a terrible storm he cried out to God and was wonderfully saved. He later expressed the sentiments of all believers in a poem which began with, “Amazing grace! how sweet the sound, That saved a wretch like me!”
The superabundance of Grace! God forgive us for taking it so much for granted. A billion years from now, angels will still be looking at you and me in awe and wonder. They will whisper to one another, “There are two of the saints! They were on earth during the rebellion and took part in it. They were enemies of God, but He loved them, redeemed them, and brought them to this place.”
III. THE STRUGGLE OF GRACE
Romans 5:21 “That as sin hath reigned unto death, even
so might grace reign through righteousness
unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Notice the contrast: Sin “hath” reigned; Grace “might” reign. Sin has the established dominion, in which Grace is trying to make headway. Sin is entrenched; Grace is invading.
Sin’s palace is a cemetery and upon her subjects she bestows death and decay. Sin is a ruthless tyrant that never abdicates voluntarily. It must be conquered, and only Christ can strangle the monster.
Only God can cast down Death from its throne. Hence, God Himself is the only foe that sin dreads. Satan knows that the only thing which can win away one of his subjects is the wooing love cry that echoes from Calvary. Only the sunshine of God’s love can melt the icebergs that float in evil hearts.
However, Grace will not force itself on anyone. That’s the real struggle. Grace comes in only when it is invited. Hence, the struggle is in convincing people of their need for a Savior.