The Gospel must be returned to time and time again. It may be better said that the Gospel must never be left to begin with, for returning to the Gospel would inevitably imply a departure. Despite how someone chooses to highlight the significance of the Gospel, the point seems clear enough.
The Gospel message is by far the most important Christian message that can be told. Therefore, the Gospel message is the most important message that there has ever been. What an amazing reality that the Christian knows the most important message humanity has ever heard. The Christian also has the privilege of studying the most important message and discovering new truths throughout his life as the Gospel is both simple and complex.
In Romans 5:12-21, Paul goes to great lengths to speak of the contrasting elements of a life in Adam and a life in Christ. The Christian would be wise to take time to carefully study Paul’s words, for they are more than mere words; they are life to those who find them.
Let’s take a look at Romans 5:18-21.
Condemnation vs. justification
Scripture says, “Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life” (Rom. 5:18) . Here we see the far reaching effects of Adam’s offence and Jesus’ righteousness.
When Adam sinned, he brought about condemnation upon himself and his descendants. The Greek word that is used for condemnation is katakrima, which denotes an adverse sentence (thus a verdict) that is given in a court of law by a judge. The word katakrima also carries with it an implied punishment along with the verdict. We can see such a clear connection when the Bible tells us that the wages of sin is death.
The condemning of the human race came by way of Adam’s offense. Everyone apart from Christ is condemned in Adam. However, we also see that God does not end the story there. In the Garden of Eden after Adam sinned, God promised that One would come and crush the head of the serpent. We see in Romans 5:12-21 that Jesus also came as the last Adam. This means that Jesus came to represent humanity in a similar way that Adam did.
While Adam’s offense brought about condemnation, the righteousness of Christ brought about justification and life. Both justification and condemnation place an individual in a court of law and before a judge. Thus, there is a judicial tone in which condemnation and justification are presented to the reader.
When a judge condemns a guilty party, the guilty one is first deemed guilty and then a proper punishment is given. On the other hand, when someone is justified, it means that the person is declared not guilty. Therefore, we can see that Paul was highly concerned with highlighting God as a judge in the book of Romans.
Look back at what preceded Romans 5:12-21, and you will see the judgment of God as a major theme. Romans 1:18-2:29 pronounces judgment upon the entire human race. Paul starts with the guilt of the Gentile and the disgusting sin that is found upon the earth. Afterward, Paul moves to the Jew who must come before God as a sinner and thus bear his guilt.
When we get to chapter 3, we can understand why Paul tells us that nobody is good, not even one. Paul had already placed all of humanity under the judgment of God. But Paul does not leave us there. In chapters 3 and 4, Paul reveals to us the glorious doctrine of justification by faith alone.
As we get to 5:18-21, we can see that there is Hope for the one who must stand before the Judge of all the earth. His name is Jesus Christ. Through the righteousness of Christ, man can be justified before a holy God.
Disobedience vs. obedience
When Jesus walked upon the earth, He fulfilled the law perfectly. Everything that Jesus did was pleasing to the Father. The righteousness of Christ was about more than simply making a statement as to the perfections and holiness of God. The Bible tells us that Jesus came and was born under the law. The implications of this truth are essential for the Christian’s understanding.
Jesus came born under the law to fulfill the law. The Old Testament tells us that the requirement for blessing is perfect adherence to the law. In Christ, the believer is seen as fulfilling the law. However, there is more to be said about the implication of Christ’s obedience.
Scripture says, “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous” (Rom. 5:19) . What does this verse tell us? This verse tells us about more than a legal declaration. We can see that due to the sin of Adam, people are naturally sinners. People do not simply sin one day and then become sinners. People sin because they are sinners.
Adam’s choice in the Garden did not only affect himself and his disposition toward God. Adam was unable to have holy descendants as a result of his sin.
But what does all this mean for those who are in Christ? What is true of those who are in Adam is true for those who are in Christ. For those who are in Adam, the sin nature of Adam is imparted to them. However, in Christ, the believer dies to his old nature and takes on a new divine nature. We see in the verse at hand that those who are in Christ are not merely justified, but also made righteous. This means that a believer will also be practically righteous in his life in much the same way that an unbeliever sins because he is a sinner.
The purpose of the law
This brings us to the purpose of the law. Scripture says, “Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” (Rom. 5:20) . Here it is clear that one of the reasons as to why the law was given was to increase the trespass. Prior to Romans 5:20, in verse 13, we are told that sin is not counted where there is no law. In other words, there was no trespassing of the law without the law. In verse 20, we are told that the law was given to increase the trespass. Thus, the law was given to expose sin, thereby revealing sin to mankind.
Grace reigns through righteousness
But praise the Lord that God did not simply stop at exposing sin and condemning sin. God has made the way of salvation. Scripture says, “That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom 5:21) . Sin reigns in the life of the unbeliever, and it reigns unto death. However, grace reigns through righteousness, and it leads to eternal life.
God has imputed the righteousness of Christ to the believer, and it is in the righteousness of Christ that the believer stands. God secures the believer in a position of righteousness throughout the duration of his life, and the believer will therefore remain righteous from the first day of his salvation on through eternity. Sin does not make the Christian any less righteous before God. This does not mean that the Christian should continue in sin. In Romans 6, Paul will get into the ridiculousness of continuing in sin while at the same time claiming to be a Christian.
Simply put, in Christ, the grace of God flows like a steady stream and never dries up. God’s grace abounds to the Christian, and it is much greater than the sin that the Christian commits. At the same time, the grace of God works within the believer to make a believer more like Christ. While sin remains, the grace of God breaks the reign of sin so that sin is no longer the defining mark of the Christian.
Father, I thank You for the righteousness of Christ. I thank You for imparting to me what I need to live a life according to Your Word. In Jesus’ name, Amen.