Recently Added
to Exposition of Romans:

3:9–20—Conclusion: OT confirms that humanity is under sin’s power
(January 26th 2019)
5:15–17—Death vs. “much more” life.

In verse 12, Paul’s phrasing suggested he was about to make a comparison. He opened with the words, “just as sin came into the world through one man,” but there was no “so also” statement about the other man. Instead he stepped aside in verses 13 and 14 to make a point about the law.

Paul will not complete the phrase he began in verse 12 until verse 18, but now he moves the argument forward by contrasting the judgment that came through Adam with the gifts of grace and righteousness that came through Jesus Christ.

15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.
16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification.
17 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.

Adam is like Christ—a “type” of Christ as we saw in verse 14—in the sense that both did one thing that affected all of humanity. But there the resemblance ends. In verses 15 and 16 Paul spells out why their actions are “not like” each other.

Contrast of death and grace
Paul calls Christ’s act a “free gift,” a term that highlights God’s initiative by his grace to rescue humanity from certain death. RC Sproul: “Death is something we earned; salvation is something that we receive as a gift. You cannot earn it or buy it.” Douglas Moo expresses the distinction this way: “while our solidarity with Adam in condemnation is due to our solidarity with him in ‘sinning,’ our solidarity with Christ in righteousness is not because we have acted righteously in and with Christ.” Amazing grace!

In an overflow of “much more” superabundance, that gift of grace supplies righteousness, life, peace, love, joy, and hope for everyone who receives it. God’s grace is much more powerful than sin!

Contrast of consequences
Adam’s sin received an immediate judgment from God that he would toil for food and return to the dust from which he was formed. As we read on from Genesis 3 we learn that the consequences of Adam’s sin were more far-reaching than those initial words from God suggest.

The human race has suffered immensely from one act of disobedience. If that had been humanity’s only sin, history likely would have been quite different. But one sin led to “many trespasses,” as people born after Adam not only displayed his propensity to sin but went on to commit despicable evils Adam would never have imagined. By choosing to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Adam and Eve replaced God’s definition of good and evil with their own and imparted to the human family a false conception of both.

In another contrast, the condemnation resulting from Adam’s trespass and those other many trespasses was canceled by Christ’s one free gift of justification. Both Moo and Colin Kruse quote C. E. B. Cranfield: “That one single misdeed should be answered by judgment, this is perfectly understandable: that the accumulated sins and guilt of all the ages should be answered by God’s free gift, this is the miracle of miracles, utterly beyond human comprehension.”

Death by default or life by choice
If Adam’s one act could bring about such devastation, how “much more” powerful is the work of Christ to overcome death and bestow life on those who receive his superabundance of grace and gift of righteousness.

Everyone is born into the family of Adam, but one must choose to join the family of Christ. Once a person becomes aware of the Christ option, the following statement by Robert Utley applies: “Humans are volitionally involved in their future destinies! They continue to choose sin or they choose Christ. They cannot affect these two choices, but they do volitionally show to which they belong!”

Two different reigns
In a final contrast, Paul pictures the reigns of two different kings. The first is death, a presently ruling despot that relegates so many people to hell, which opens its jaws wide to receive them (Isaiah 5:14). The second reign is yet future and it features multiple kings who are—and note this well—believers! Yes, those who receive the grace and righteousness offered through the gospel will reign in life as kings through Christ.

We will reign with the King of Kings: “If we endure, we will also reign with him” (2 Timothy 2:12). When the Lord returns as judge to establish his kingdom he will award us the crown of righteousness (2 Timothy 4:8), and at that time also God will bestow on us the crown of life (James 1:12).

At the final judgment death and hell together, along with the devil, will be thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:14), and those whose names are not found written in the book of life will be thrown in with them (20:15). The choice truly is between eternal death and eternal life.