Impartial Grace: Romans 5

Therefore as sin entered into the world through one man, and death through sin; and so death passed to all men, because all sinned. For until the law, sin was in the world; but sin is not charged when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those whose sins weren’t like Adam’s disobedience, who is a foreshadowing of him who was to come. But the free gift isn’t like the trespass. For if by the trespass of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God, and the gift by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. The gift is not as through one who sinned: for the judgment came by one to condemnation, but the free gift came of many trespasses to justification. For if by the trespass of the one, death reigned through the one; so much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one, Jesus Christ. So then as through one trespass, all men were condemned; even so through one act of righteousness, all men were justified to life. For as through the one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the one, many will be made righteous. The law came in besides, that the trespass might abound; but where sin abounded, grace abounded more exceedingly; that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

(Romans 5:12-21, emphasis added)

Lee Salisbury asks us to consider how the doctrine of eternal conscious torment exalts Satan. “Did the first Adam’s offense unto condemnation and death for all accomplish ‘much more’ than the last Adam’s free gift of grace unto justification for all (Romans 5:15)?” Satan is the cause of sin in the world. He deceived Eve and then Adam with a lie and Adam sinned. The penalty for Adam’s transgression against his Father falls on every human. The penalty is physical death. God creates each and every one of us in the wombs of our mothers. At birth, though, we are born into a sinful world.

Review verses 15 and 18 closely. We are given a comparison. One man’s sin causes the death of “many” men. The grace of our Almighty God, by way of His Judgment, Christ Jesus, overwhelms “many” men. The comparison is that Adam’s offense, his transgression, causes the physical death for “all mankind” and that through God’s Judgment, Christ Jesus, “all mankind” is justified. Adam brought sin into the world affecting “all men.” Jesus’ act of obedience to His Father’s command brings salvation to “all men.”

“The many” in verse 15 must include every human created and that the “many” later in that verse must include every human created. Any other interpretation or conclusion gives Satan power over mankind. This power is more consuming than Christ’s death for our reconciliation. If the “all” who are condemned by Adam’s transgression is different or greater than the “all” justified and brought to righteousness, then Satan is the victor. He will have a “super-abounding” affect on God’s creation. Satan will have the upper hand. Christ’s power to save “all” is diminished to something less than Satan’s power to deceive “all.”

Adam Clarke is a well known Bible scholar. He took 40 years to complete a commentary on the Bible. His work is widely accepted and is often used to explain God’s Word. Here he says of Romans 5:18 1 “Through the disobedience of Adam, a sentence of condemnation to death, without any promise or hope of a resurrection, passed upon all men; so, by the obedience of Christ unto death, this one grand righteous act, the sentence was so far reversed, that death shall not finally triumph, for all shall again be restored to life”. Everyone dies eventually. Dr. Clarke says, “The mercy of God, in Christ Jesus, shall have its due also…. The whole human race shall be raised to life at the great day. Thus both justice and mercy are magnified; and neither is exalted at the expense of the other.”

“All” in one place must mean “all” in the second place. “The many” meaning all in one place must mean all in the second place. Universal reconciliation does not alter the meaning of “all” or “many.” The doctrine elevates God’s mercy and justice to the benefit of all. God’s will cannot be expunged from the record of His Word. God is love. His mercy will be shown to all. “Every knee will bow…” one day. All will acknowledge Him and Satan will suffer his fate. We should not lift up the evil one. Adam sinned and by his act of disobedience all mankind was cursed to work the ground and to physically die. Adam disobeyed God’s commandment. Since, Adam, death reigned.

John MacArthur is renowned as a Biblical scholar, teacher of Holy Scripture, Pastor of a well established church. Dr. MacArthur, however, does not agree that “all” means “all” in the context of these verses. According to Dr. MacArthur and most other traditional orthodox scholars the first “many” in verse 15 means “all mankind,” but the “many” that Christ’s sacrifice impacted is not “all mankind.” In verse 18 the condemnation is to “all men,” but the reconciliation to Himself is not to “all men.”

Dr. MacArthur preached a sermon, “Death Through Adam Life Through Christ.” 2 on this subject particularly. He preaches Adam and Christ Jesus “made the most monumental impact on human life.” These men “affected the whole of the human race for time and eternity.” Each man performed separate, but single acts that impacted the whole of humanity. Dr. MacArthur teaches, “Adam brought death and Christ brought life.”

Dr. MacArthur is convincing that Adam’s transgression in the Garden is the cause of sin in the world and that sin is a part of every human God creates. Dr. MacArthur’s point of view is that “…sin entered the world, the cosmos of man’s existence, the system of creation, as we know it, through one man.” That one man, Adam, “…introduced sin to mankind.” Dr. MacArthur preaches, “…Sin entered into the human realm through Adam. By one man, sin entered the world.”

Dr. MacArthur expounds on death being imputed to all mankind from the moment of Adam’s transgression. He elaborates how sin was transferred from our mothers and we were conceived with sin. Babies are born with sin. Dr. MacArthur is consistent in this point. Because of Adam’s transgression sin entered the world as we know it and death reigns.

Dr. MacArthur describes Paul’s intent in these verses. Dr. MacArthur says, “What he’s talking about here is the impact of one man, Adam, on everybody. And he says the fact that that one man, Adam, by one act affected everybody is a type or a picture of Christ by one act affecting everybody.” Christ’s life, death on the cross, His burial, His resurrection and His ascension into heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father does indeed affect “everybody.”

Dr. MacArthur preaches that “many” does not really mean “many” and that “all” does not really mean “all.” Dr. MacArthur tells more about Paul’s intended meaning. “He has just presented the fact that Jesus Christ, by his one work of death and resurrection on the cross and through the open tomb has impacted all who believe.” A qualifier has been added. “All who believe,” is added and that addition takes away from the true impact of Christ’s sacrifice “…for the sins of the many.”

Dr. MacArthur’s message to his audience that day is “precisely what Paul wants you to understand. That while you no more are responsible for that act which produced your death; you are no more responsible for that act which produces your salvation and your life. That’s a gift. That’s a gift. In verse 15 he says, a free gift. Isn’t like the transgressions.” The sin of Adam and salvation gift of Christ are certainly not the same, but the application to mankind are. At least, they should be.

Dr. MacArthur says Paul is “making an analogy here.” He says Paul “uses ‘many’ and ‘all’ …throughout this text for literary contrast purposes and sometimes ‘many’ means ‘all’ and sometimes ‘all’ means ‘many.’

Is Dr. MacArthur speaking for Paul? Was Paul using a literary device as Dr. MacArthur preaches?

I love Dr. MacArthur and I am especially fond of his preaching style. I appreciate that he values preaching by exposition “one verse at a time.” I am highly appreciative of his scholarly position. He is in my view a Scholar’s Scholar. However, I cannot accept the distinctions he derives here.

The Blue Letter Bible Institute provides a website with multiple Bible translations and Bible commentaries. They provide the King James Bible with Strong’s Numbers. 3 Many theological scholars use Strong’s notes to aid their understanding of words translated from Greek to English. Strong’s Notes are trusted far and wide as authoritative and true. In Romans 5:15 the word “many” carries the Strong’s Number G4183 in both places the word is used. Strong’s defines this word “many” as “Including the forms from the alternate pollos; (singular) much (in any respect) or (plural) many; neuter (singular) as adverb largely; neuter (plural) as adverb or noun often, mostly, largely: – abundant, + altogether, common, + far (passed, spent), (+ be of a) great (age, deal, -ly, while), long, many, much, oft (-en [-times]), plenteous, sore, straitly. Compare G4118, G4119.”

Please note the Greek word used here to signify “many” as translated into English is the same in both instances. Paul is not employing “a literal device” as Dr. MacArthur suggests?

In Romans 5:18 the word “all” carries the Strong’s Number G3956. Strong’s defines these occurrences of “all” as “Including all the forms of declension; apparently a primary word; all, any, every, the whole: – all (manner of, means) alway (-s), any (one), X daily, + ever, every (one, way), as many as, + no (-thing), X throughly, whatsoever, whole, whosoever.”

Please note the Greek word used here to mean “all” as translated into English is the same in both instances. Again, Paul is not using a literary device here?

Mr. Salisbury asks a question referenced earlier, “Did the first Adam’s offense unto condemnation and death for all accomplish ‘much more’ than the last Adam’s free gift of grace unto justification for all (Ro.5:15)?

Knowing what you now know, how will you answer the question? Did Adam’s act of disobedience condemn more to eternal torment than Christ, The Last Adam, will save? Is Adam, a created man, of greater consequence than our Lord, Christ Jesus? Did Satan defeat Christ?

This is Impartial Grace. Adam sinned. He was disobedient and his disobedience had a terrible effect on all men. The “Second Adam,” Who is Christ Jesus, has “…the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness….” He gives the gift of salvation “…and life for all men.” Christ Jesus makes all men righteous. Adam, which means mankind, sinned and all men are born and subsequently die. All men live in the world and possess a propensity to sin. Christ Jesus died and His Father forgives the sins of mankind. “Every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord.” All men will be drawn to Him. Not one will be lost.

The sins of the world are inferior to the grace upon grace given by our Father. Sin abounds and grace abounds greater still. Is there any person grace cannot conquer? Is there even one person who will deny the love of God? “Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess Jesus is Lord….” It is to His glory. “God is salvation.” That is the meaning of His Name. His Word is true. The Good News is that Jesus Christ gives an “…abundance of grace.” The Good News does not discriminate. Jesus gives to all. He gives us all “…the free gift of righteousness….”

Only Jesus is able to resolve the “one trespass that led to the condemnation for all men.” Condemnation for sin is removed and is replaced by “one act of righteousness.” God is Love. He is just. His justice is in His love. The Christ’s “one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.” This is “The Blessed Hope” and it is Impartial Grace.

1 Adam Clarke. Adam Clarke Commentary (Romans 5:18). Study Light website. Publication date unknown. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/romans-5.html. Date accessed: 04/01/2018.

2 John MacArthur. “Death Through Adam; Life Through Christ.” Grace To You website. August 18, 1991. https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/80-85/death-through-adam-life-through-christ. Date accessed: 04/02/2018.

3KJV with Strong’s Numbers: Romans 5:18.” Blue Letter Bible Institute. Date of publication not known. https://www.blueletterbible.org/kjv/rom/5/18/ss1/s_1051018. Date accessed: 04/02/2018.