Romans 5, Part 5
Oct 29, 2010
In Romans 5, Paul's use of the term, "the many" has confused many Christians, because in our culture we normally think of "many" as being somewhere between "one" and "all."
But Paul makes it synonymous with "all men." In verse 12 "death spread to all men," and then in verse 15, he says, "by the transgression of the one [Adam], the many died." Obviously, "all men" is what Paul meant by "the many," because there are no exceptions as to being mortal. The use of this phrase is meant to contrast the one man with the entire group that was affected by a single act.
Furthermore, the whole idea is to compare Adam with Christ. Even as Adam's sin was imputed to all men, resulting in death, so also is the righteousness of Christ imputed to all men, resulting in life. Yet the manner in which this goal is accomplished is seen more clearly in Paul's other letters.
First and foremost, this is a law of authority and headship. Adam was given dominion, not only over his own (future) children, but also over the entire earth. Hence, the entire earth was made subject to death. Romans 8:20-22 says,
(20) For the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope (21) that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. (22) For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.
Death was imposed upon all of creation, not just upon Adam's children or mankind in general. They were affected because they were subject to Adam's authority. Adam was sentenced to death at the beginning, and no one can escape from that sentence by claiming Adam as their father or as their head. Such a claim only confirms the sentence of death upon themselves.
We need a new identity. The path to life is to claim Jesus Christ as our Father, for then the law of authority works in our favor. He is our Father if the Spirit of God has impregnated our soul with the seed of Christ. The virgin birth of Jesus is the great example of this, showing us how we (like Mary) can beget Christ as a new generation.
The great "mystery" is "Christ in you" (Col. 1:27). If Christ is indeed in you, then you are pregnant with Christ, awaiting the "birth" of the Manchild at the appointed time. This new generation has both a heavenly Father and an earthly mother, even as Jesus did, but the identity of this Manchild is derived from its Father.
That holy seed that is coming to birth is THE REAL YOU, if so be that you identify with this Manchild, as Paul did in Romans 7 in his discussion of the "two I's." There is the "I" that identifies with the first Adam, and the "I" that identifies with the last Adam. Romans 7:25 says, "so then, on the one hand I myself with my [spiritual] mind am serving the law of God; but on the other [mind-identity with Adam] with my flesh the law of sin."
In this entire salvation process, it is important to see that our identity with Adam has been sentenced to death and cannot be saved. It is only our identity with the last Adam that will be saved. When the Manchild within us is brought to birth, the fleshly mother will die in childbirth, even as did Rachel (Gen. 35:19), when Benjamin was born. Rachel was a prophetic type of our own soul giving birth to the "Son of my right hand."
As for the scope of this blessing, Paul writes two things which, on the surface, appear to be conflicting ideas. In verse 17 he appears to limit the grace of Christ to "those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness." In other words, it appears that one must receive it in order to obtain it. But in the next verse he says that out of Christ's righteous act "there resulted justification of life to all men."
Thus, in verse 17 Paul seems to limit the blessing of immortality to those few who actually accept Jesus Christ's sacrifice on the cross--those who have heard the word of conciliation and who have responded in kind in order to be reconciled to God. It is self-evident, however, that not all men do this in the course of their life span. In fact, the vast majority of mankind (until very recently) never had opportunity to hear this word of conciliation.
Because many theologians have not been able to reconcile this with "justification of life to all men," they have had to choose which of Paul's statements to believe.
Hence, some theologians have argued that Christ has merely offered justification of life to all men. The conciliation of all, they say, requires a response in order to make reconciliation, and hence, without that necessary response, the reconciliation simply will not happen. And so the "all men," in practice, is limited to all who respond to the gospel message.
As a result, the common theology has taught that all who are in Adam died, while all who are in Christ have been given life. This does, indeed establish the law of authority, but it does not explain Paul's use of the term "all men." Nor does it resolve the injustice of all men (and even all of creation) being subjected to futility against their will (Rom. 8:20). It is unjust that all men would suffer as the result of one man's sin. Even the divine Law itself says this in Deut. 24:16,
(16) Fathers shall not be put to death for their sons, nor shall sons be put to death for their fathers; everyone shall be put to death for his own sin.
This law is cited in Ezekiel 18:20. In spite of this, God holds children accountable to the third and fourth generation (Ex. 34:7), and in Romans 4 we learn of imputed sin and imputed righteousness. Adam's sin was imputed to others, causing them to pay the penalty of sin--mortality.
Many theologians have wrestled with these great issues but have been unable to understand how a just God can unjustly make the children pay for the sins of Adam. Their "solution" is too limited in its scope, because if only those who respond to the word of conciliation are given life, then the injustice upon the bulk of humanity remains unresolved.
Neither can it be said that it was their own fault for not accepting Christ, for the vast majority of them throughout the millennia never had the slightest particle of opportunity to hear of Christ.
Somehow, some way, all those to whom Adam's sin was imputed must also have the righteousness of Christ imputed to them. This seems impossible to the average Christian, but all things are possible with God. God specializes in the impossible.
The key is in understanding two things: First, it is true that only those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ will be saved. Secondly, God will make a way to ensure that all men will indeed believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.
We know that not all men believe in their life time. But there is no biblical statement prohibiting men from believing in Christ after they have died. Heb. 9:27 merely says, "and inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment." But judgment does not prohibit men from repenting. In fact, the whole purpose of God's law is to cause men to repent by means of judgment.
This, then, is the key to resolving the difficulties in Paul's epistle. Many are "saved yet so as through fire," because they will have to experience the fire of God in order to be saved. No one will be given life without responding to the word of conciliation. But yet all will respond, each in his own order and time.
This is the fifth part of a series titled "Romans 5." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones