Sermon text and audio
Subscribe to feed

About This Blog...

Sermon Audio also attached to sermons at:

Sermon text also at:


Recent Posts

Life for All. Romans 5:15-21
July 30, 2017

In the world of sports, most sports today are seasonal. We wait for the warmer weather for field sports. But in an effort to transcend the unpredictability of weather, more and more sports are being played on turf instead of grass. Although they have the ability to not flood, don’t need fertilizer, or mowing and don’t get dry patches, they are more fragile. At a turf baseball diamond we were at last week in Chicago, there were some severe restrictions. There was a strict ban on foreign objects like sunflower seeds, lest they become permanently lodged in the turf and create hard spots. Even metal cleats, which enable a player to grip grass, would tear a turf field. Just one player could cause permanently damage the field for everyone.


As we come into this world, we are a fallen race because sin was introduced in one act of disobedience, just one act, but it was such a revolutionary act, an act that made the whole race become rebellious in principle, me-centered at its core, with a fallen nature that begins all of life’s experience by making God other, by making ourselves god by preference. But when Christ died on the cross, he didn’t just pay for that one act. Since that one act, you and I have sinned again and again, and not just you and I, but men and women from every tongue and tribe and people and nation. All the sins of arrogance, pride, and hatred; all the sins of violence, resentment, and lust; all the cruelty; the petty bitterness; the nurtured resentment; all the cheating on the income tax; all the really grotesque genocides, perhaps 100 million people killed in the twentieth century apart from war (Carson, D. A. (2016). Death through Adam; Life through Christ. In D. A. Carson Sermon Library (Ro 5:12–21). Bellingham, WA: Faithlife.).


Perhaps you think in unfair of God to have Adam as your representative. You perhaps think that you would have done better. That thought in itself, challenges the sovereignty of God and shows your need for a savior. Whenever we claim that something is unjust with God, we must be careful in seeking justice. If God was completely just, we would receive the eternal punishment that we deserve for transgressing His law. We need grace and have God’s justice satisfied by another.


In Romans 5:15-21, as if to examine every facet of this marvelous analogy, Paul explores five essential areas of contrast between the condemning act of Adam and the glorious redemptive act of Christ. Those acts were different in their 1) Effectiveness (Romans 5:15), 2) Extent (Romans 5:16), 3) Efficacy (Romans 5:17), 4) Essence (Romans 5:18–19), and in their 5) Energy (Romans 5:20–21).


1)      The Contrast In Effectiveness(Romans 5:15)

Romans 5:1515 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 (ESV)


The first contrast is clearly stated as being between the free gift of Christ and the trespass/transgression of Adam, acts that were totally opposite. By definition, all gifts are free, but charisma (free gift) refers to something given with special graciousness and favor, and therefore could also be appropriately rendered “grace gift.” When used of what is given to God, the term refers to that which is right and acceptable in His sight; when used of that which is given by God, as here, it refers to that which is given completely apart from human merit. In regard to Jesus’ atoning sacrifice, both meanings are involved. Going to the cross was Jesus’ supreme act of obedience to His Father and therefore was wholly acceptable to the Father. His going to the cross was also the supreme act of divine grace, His free gift offered to redeem His people.


Trespass/Transgression is from paraptom̄a, which has the basic meaning of deviating from a path, or departing from the norm. By extension, it carries the idea of going where one should not go, and therefore is translated “trespass.” The one sin of Adam that was bequeathed to all his posterity and that brought the reign of death on the world was a trespass/transgression from the one command, from the single norm for obedience, that God had given. Adam functioned as a representative for humanity. A representative involves those they represent in the fruits of his or her action, for good or ill. In philosophy and theology, this has often been called “federal headship.” The word “federalcomes from the Latin foedus, or “covenant.” A federal head is a person who, through a covenant relationship, represents or stands in for someone else (Keller, T. (2014). Romans 1–7 for You. (C. Laferton, Ed.) (p. 126). The Good Book Company.).


Please turn to Genesis 3 (p.3)


The impact of the free gift and of the trespass/transgression are distinct to themselves. Through one man’s trespass/transgression, that is, in Adam, many died. In regard to Adam’s act, many is universal and inclusive, corresponding to the “all” in verse 12. Because all, without exception, bear in themselves the nature and mark of sin, they are all, without exception, under the sentence of death (as he has made clear in earlier chapters).


After his sin or transgressing the commands of God, God declared:

Genesis 3:17-19 17 And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; 18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (ESV)

  • By eating of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Adam departed from God’s standard and entered a divinely-forbidden realm. And instead of becoming more like God, as Satan had promised, man became more unlike His Creator and separated from Him. Instead of bringing man into the province of God, Adam’s trespass/transgression delivered him and all his posterity to the province of Satan.


The heart of Paul’s comparison, however, is that Christ’s one act of salvation had immeasurably greater impact than Adam’s one act of damnation. Much more, he says, have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded for/to many. The divine provision of redemption not only is an expression of the grace of God the Father but of the free gift/grace of God the Son, that one Man, Jesus Christ. The sin of Adam brought death. But the free gift by the grace of that one Man, Jesus Christ, did more than simply provide the way for fallen humanity to be restored to the state of Adam’s original innocence. Jesus Christ not only reversed the curse of death by forgiving and cleansing from sin but provided the way for the redeemed to share in the full righteousness and glory of God. God’s grace is greater than man’s sin. Not only is it greater than the one original sin of Adam that brought death to all but it is greater than all the accumulated sins that people have ever or will ever commit. John Calvin wrote, “Since the fall of Adam had such an effect as to produce ruin of many, much more efficacious is the grace of God to the benefit of many; inasmuch as it is admitted, that Christ is much more powerful to save, than Adam was to destroy” (John Calvin. Commentaries on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1979], p. 206).


It might be said that Adam’s sinful act, devastating as it was, had but a one-dimensional effect-it brought death to everyone. But the effect of Christ’s redemptive act has facets beyond measure, because He not only restores repentant believers to spiritual life but gives them the very life of God. Death by nature is static and empty, whereas life by nature is active and full. That is why the life that Christ brought, abounded for many. Contrary to its use in the beginning of this verse regarding Adam, the term many here now carries its normal meaning, applying only to those for whom Christ’s gracious gift of salvation is made effective through their faith in Him. Although Paul does not mention that qualifying truth at this point, He has just declared that believers are “justified by faith” and are introduced “by faith into this grace in which we stand” (Romans 5:1–2). It is the focus of Paul’s teaching in this epistle from Romans 3:21—5:2.


Jesus Christ broke the power of sin and death, but the converse is not true. Sin and death cannot break the power of Jesus Christ. The condemnation of Adam’s sin is reversible, the redemption of Jesus Christ is not. The effect of Adam’s act is permanent only if not nullified by Christ. The effect of Christ’s act, however, is permanent for believing individuals and not subject to reversal or nullification. We have the great assurance that once we are in Jesus Christ through repentance and faith, we are in Him forever. What people did was to rebel; what God did was to restore (Mounce, R. H. (1995). Romans (Vol. 27, p. 145). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.).


Hymn:In the believer’s restoration of relationship with God, God Himself achieved it through His grace. Samuel Davies, a former president of Princeton University, on this wrote: “Great God of wonders! All thy ways Are worthy of thyselfdivine; And the bright glories of thy grace Among thine other wonders shine; Who is a pardoning God like thee? Or who has grace so rich and free? Pardon from an offended God! Pardon for sins of deepest dye! Pardon bestowed through Jesus’ blood! Pardon that brings the rebel nigh! Who is a pardoning God like thee? Or who has grace so rich and free? O may this glorious, matchless love, This God-like miracle of grace, Teach mortal tongues, like those above, To raise this song of lofty praise: Who is a pardoning God like thee? Or who has grace so rich and free?” (Samuel Davies as quoted in Boice, J. M. (1991–). Romans: The Reign of Grace (Vol. 2, p. 595). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.)


2)      The Contrast in Extent(Romans 5:16)

Romans 5:1616 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. (ESV)


The second contrast between the one act of Adam and the one act of Christ is in regard to extent. In that regard, just as in effectiveness, Christ’s justification is far greater than Adam’s condemnation. In verse 15 Paul speaks ofthe trespass/transgression of the one,” whereas in verse 16 he speaks of that one man’s sin, that is, the one who transgressed. In the first case the emphasis is on the sin, in the second it is on the sinner. But the basic truth is the same. It was the one sin by the one man at the one time that brought God’s judgment and its resulting … condemnation.


But the free gift of God’s grace through Jesus Christ is not like the result of that one man’s sin. God’s judgment on Adam and his posterity arose from but one trespass/transgression. On the other hand, however, the free gift arose not simply because of that single trespass/transgression but following many trespasses/transgressions, and its result is not simply restoration but justification. John Murray offers a helpful observation: “The one trespass demanded nothing less than the condemnation of all. But the free gift unto justification is of such a character that it must take the many trespasses into its reckoning; it could not be the free gift of justification unless it blotted out the many trespasses. Consequently, the free gift is conditioned as to its nature and effect by the many trespasses just as the judgment was conditioned as to its nature and effect by the one trespass alone” (John Murray. The Epistle to the Romans [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965], p. 196).

  • This verse contains two very practical truths that are closely related. The first is that God hates sin so much that it took only one sin to condemn the entire human race and separate them from Him. It was not that Adam’s first sin was worse than others he committed or worse than people have committed since. It was simply that his first sin was sin. At the time, eating the forbidden fruit was the only sin that Adam and Eve could have committed, because God had placed but one restriction on them. But had it been possible, any other sin would have had the same effect. In the same way, any sin that any one has ever committed would be sufficient to damn the whole human race, just as Adam’s one sin did. A sobering thought, indeed.


Please turn to 2 Corinthians 5 (p.966)


The other truth in verse 16 is still more amazing and incomprehensible, and is as heartening as the first is sobering. Greater even than God’s hatred of sin is His love for the sinner. Despite the fact that God hates sin so much that any one sin could damn the human race, His loving grace toward people is so great that He provides not only for the redemption of one man from one sin but for the redemption of all those who would repent and believe from all sins. Jesus Christ took upon Himself the sins of all His people, past, present and future.


In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul explains the magnificent grace and provision make by Christ; and our resulting change:

2 Corinthians 5:17-2117 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (ESV)

  • In Christ, which is a way of saying those who repent and believe in Him, are new creations. We are not just restored to the original innocent state of Adam before he sinned, with an old nature, but have a redeemed nature with the resident Holy Spirit inside us. Our citizenship is in heaven, and while we are on earth we are His ambassadors (v.20), which a mission and messageto urge others to be reconciled to God through repentance and faith. This all happened because Christ (v.21) suffered the wrath of God that we deserve and imputes to us His full righteousness, that we can come to the Father.


Hymn: In coming to Christ, we must remember our weakness and need for Him. Since we have been saved entirely by grace, as we see we have, this very fact should draw us closer to God. Why? Because without Him we are lost, and our assurance in not in our power to save ourselves. As Robert Robinson expressed it: “Oh, to grace how great a debtor Daily I’m constrained to be; Let that grace now, like a fetter, Bind my wandering heart to thee. Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love; Here’s my heart, Oh, take and seal it, Seal it for thy courts above”. (Robert Robinson, 1758 as recorded in Boice, J. M. (1991–). Romans: The Reign of Grace (Vol. 2, pp. 599–600). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.)


3)   The Contrast in Efficacy(Romans 5:17)

Romans 5:1717 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. (ESV)


The third contrast between the one act of Adam and the one act of Christ is in regard to efficacy, the capacity to produce a desired result. As Paul has already pointed out, the one sin of the one man Adam brought the reign of death (vv. 12–14). It is to that truth that the if-which here carries the idea of “because”-refers. It has been established that Adam’s one act of sin brought the reign of death. But that was hardly the intent of the first sin. Neither Adam nor Eve sinned because they wanted to die; they sinned because they expected to become like God. Their sin produced the very opposite result from that which they desired and emphasized the deception of the tempter. Instead of becoming more like God, they became more unlike Him.


The one act of the one Man, Jesus Christ, however, produced precisely the desired result. The divine intent of Jesus’ sacrifice of Himself on the cross was that those who receive the abundance of that unmatched act of grace and of the free gift of righteousness would reign in life through the One man who died for them, namely, Jesus Christ.


Please turn to John 10 (p.896)


The one-dimensional result of Adam’s one act was death, whereas the result of Christ’s one act is life, which is multidimensional. Christ not only offers life but abundant life, life that abounds (v. 15; cf. John 10:10). The redeemed in Christ not only receive abundant life but are given righteousness as a free gift (cf. 2 Cor. 5:21). They reign in that righteous life with their Lord and Savior. They possess the very righteous, glorious, and eternal life of God Himself. Because Paul uses a future verb to depict the reigning of those who receive the gift, most think that the reference must be to the eschatological future. But, without denying that this is involved, and may even be the primary emphasis, it may be that this “reigning in lifebegins with the reception of the gift of righteousness (Moo, D. J. (1996). The Epistle to the Romans (p. 340). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.).


Jesus explained the deception of what sin offers from eternal life through Him:

John 10:10-16 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. (ESV)

  • The “practical use” of this great truth is that the One who has granted us spiritual life will fulfill that life in us. “For I am confident of this very thing,” Paul assured the Philippian believers, “that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6). God is the great transformer and fulfiller of life.


To reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ is also to have power over sin(cf. Rom. 6:17-18). As believers, we know from experience as well as from Scripture that we are still plagued with sin, still clothed in the sinful rags of the old self (cf.  Eph. 4:22). But sin is no longer the nature or the master of the believer. In Christ we are no longer victims of sin but victors over sin (1 Cor. 15:57).


Illustration:Mel Trotter, was a great influence for Christ in Chicago and in fact the entire nation during the first half of this century. As an alcoholic he had fallen so low that on the evening he finally stumbled into the Pacific Garden Mission and found Christ, he was under the influence of alcohol he had purchased with the shoes taken from his little girl’s feet as she lay in her coffin. So wondrous was the effect of God’s abounding grace in his life that eight years later he was ordained to the Presbyterian ministry, became an outstanding evangelist, and founded more than sixty-seven rescue missions from coast to coast. “But where sin increased, grace increased all the more.” There is always more grace! In the words of an old hymn: Have you on the Lord believed? Still there’s more to follow. Of his grace have you received? Still there’s more to follow. Oh, the grace the Father shows, Still there’s more to follow Freely He His grace bestows, Still there’s more to follow. More and more and more and more, Always more to follow; Oh, His matchless, boundless love, Still there’s more to follow! No matter how great your sin—in quantity or depth, God’s grace superabounds to you! No one is beyond the grace of Christ (Hughes, R. K. (1991). Romans: righteousness from heaven (pp. 118–119). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.).


4)      The Contrast In Essence  (Romans 5:18–19)

Romans 5:18–1918 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 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. (ESV)


The fourth contrast between the one act of Adam and the one act of Christ is in regard to essence. These two verses summarize the analogy of Adam and Christ. Just as “the many died” in verse 15 refers inclusively to all, so life for/to all men here refers exclusively to those who trust in Christ. This verse does not teach universalism, as some have contended through the centuries. It is abundantly clear from other parts of this epistle, including the first two verses of this chapter, that salvation comes only to those who have faith in Jesus Christ (Cf. 1:16–17; 3:22, 28; 4:5, 13). This point is that there can be an assurance of justification and life, on one side, that is just as strong and certain as the assurance of condemnation on the other. Paul wants to show, not how Christ has made available righteousness and life for all, but how Christ has secured the benefits of that righteousness for all who belong to him.( Moo, D. J. (1996). The Epistle to the Romans (p. 343). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.)


Paul’s primary teaching in these two verses is that the essence of Adam’s one trespass/transgression (v. 18a) was disobedience (v. 19a), whereas the essence of Christ’s one act of righteousness (v. 18b) was obedience (v. 19b). When God commanded Adam not to eat of the forbidden fruit, Adam disobeyed and brought death. When God sent His only begotten Son into the world to suffer and die, the Son obeyed and brought life.  The word trespass describes the specific act of Adam’s sin, while disobedience describes its intent (cf. Genesis 3:1–7) Temptation still takes that same form, rationalizing deliberate disobedience to God in pursuit of some supposedly higher ideal. Ends and means do not justify one another. In Adam’s case, neither the ends (disobedience) nor the means (trespass) turned out to be right (Barton, B. B., Veerman, D., & Wilson, N. S. (1992). Romans (p. 110). Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.).


In verse 19, “Made” translates kathistēmi and here carries the idea of constituting, or establishing. The disobedience of Adam … was the ground of their being placed in the category of sinners’ and ‘the obedience of Christ was the ground on which the many are to be placed in the category of the righteous’…‘Look at yourself in Adam; though you had done nothing you were declared a sinner. Look at yourself in Christ; and see that, though you have done nothing, you are declared to be righteous (Stott, J. R. W. (2001). The message of Romans: God’s good news for the world (pp. 156–157). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.).


Yet, the person who genuinely belongs to Jesus Christ will reflect that same spirit of obedience, because that person has Christ’s own life within them. When a person places his trust in Christ, they are not only is declared righteous forensically but is actually made righteous, that is, given an inward righteousness that must and will bear fruit. As long as a believer is in the flesh, they will have the shortcomings and weaknesses of the flesh, and their righteousness will not be manifested perfectly. But if a person’s life is characterized by sin and shows no fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22–23), that person has no legitimate claim on Christ. The person who is made righteous by Christ will live righteously.


Hymn:The “practical use” of this truth is that genuine believers can truly sing with H. G. Spafford in his great hymn: “My sin, O the bliss of this glorious thought, My sin, not in part but the whole, Is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more, It is well, it is well with my soul.”


5)      The Contrast in Energy(Romans 5:20–21)

Romans 5:20–2120 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (ESV)


The fifth and last contrast between the one act of Adam and the one act of Christ is in regard to energy. As Paul explains more fully in chapter 7, the energizing force behind sin is the Law, which came in to increase the trespass/transgression Knowing that he would be charged with being antinomian and with speaking evil of something God Himself had divinely revealed through Moses, Paul states unequivocally that “the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good” (Rom. 7:12). Nevertheless, God’s own Law had the effect of causing trespass/transgression to increase.


It should be noted here that God’s law-ceremonial, moral, or spiritual-has never been a means of salvation during any age. God gave the Law through Moses as a pattern for righteousness but not as a means of righteousness. The law has no power to produce righteousness, but for the person who belongs to God and sincerely desires to do His will, it is a guide to righteous living. The law identifies particular transgressions, so that those acts can more easily be seen as sinful and thereby cause people to see themselves more easily as sinners. For that reason the Law also has power to incite people to unrighteousness, not because the Law is evil but because people are evil. The law was never intended to provide salvation but to convince people of their need for it(Mounce, R. H. (1995). Romans (Vol. 27, p. 145). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.).

  • The person who reads a sign in the park that forbids the picking of flowers and then proceeds to pick one demonstrates their natural, reflexive rebellion against authority. There is nothing wrong with the sign; its message is perfectly legitimate and good. But because it places a restriction on people’s freedom to do as they please, it causes resentment and has the effect of leading some people to do what they otherwise might not even think of doing.


Again focusing on the truth that Christ’s one act of redemption is far greater than Adam’s one act of condemnation, Paul exults: but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more. God’s grace not only surpasses Adam’s one sin but all the sins of humanity. Grace was not an addition to God’s plan; grace was a part of God’s plan from the very beginning. God dealt with Adam and Eve in grace; He dealt with the patriarchs in grace; and He dealt with the nation of Israel in grace. He gave the Law through Moses, not to replace His grace, but to reveal humanity’s need for grace. Law was temporary, but grace is eternal (Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 1, p. 529). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.).


Finally, like a master weaver, Paul pulls all the threads together in his tapestry of redemptive truth in verse 21, declaring: As sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Nothing is greater than the grace of God. As the hymn writer has put it: “ Marvelous grace of our loving Lord, Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt, Yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured, There where the blood of the Lamb was spilt. Grace, grace, God’s grace, Grace that will pardon and cleanse within; Grace, grace, God’s grace, Grace that is greater than all our sin”. (Julia H. Johnston, as quoted in Boa, K., & Kruidenier, W. (2000). Romans (Vol. 6, p. 172). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.)


(Format Note: Outline & some base commentary from MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1991). Romans (pp. 301–309). Chicago: Moody Press.)


Post A Comment

Please enter the text you
see in the image above.
(This is just so we know that you're human.)

Can't read this image? Click SUBMIT for a new image.