The Bearing of Romans 5:12-21

J. N. Darby.

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My dear brother,

The division in the doctrinal teaching of the Epistle in Romans 5 at the beginning of verse 12, the verse you point out, has been already noticed in tracts which are in print. The former part deals with what we have done, as God's question to Cain; the second with what and where we are, as God's question to Adam, the state of Adam being confirmed and made plain by the judgment pronounced on him. "He drove out the man." Romans 1:19 to 5:11 deals with what we have done, and Christ's propitiation as the remedy, adding His resurrection as the great seal of it. From verse 12 it deals with what we are. He speaks of state, not guilt, though of course guilt is there.

The "wherefore" (διὰ τοῦτο), of which you first ask, is a gathering up of the whole teaching of the previous part of the epistle, which taught, not Judaism and a called people, but wrath from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of them who hold the truth in unrighteousness, Jew and Gentile. All were under sin under different circumstances, but alike come short of the glory of God; and every mouth stopped, those that had law, as well as reckless Gentiles sunk in evident depravity. It was the condition of the whole race of man, as man, before a revealed God, holy in His nature. There is, however, an additional special ground of the "wherefore," which will not be fully apprehended till that is introduced: a living Christ securing blessing where a man is justified from the old sins, and reconciled, having been an enemy. Christ's death would secure him through, and save him from wrath. This so far brought in, not only the clearing the guilty by the work Christ had wrought, but a new standing in life. By the righteousness of one the free gift came to all for justification of life. This was a new position of man, not indeed yet the glory or resurrection with Christ and union with Him, but a new position and standing; not merely the clearing away the sins a man was guilty of in connection with his old standing, but a new standing in life, a justification of life.

This clearly brought in a new state, not mere justification from the evil he was guilty of, but a condition into which he was brought; hence too, though recognizing it, it reached out beyond the whole nature of Judaism. This the apostle sums up in chapter 5:12-21 with the connecting word "wherefore," taking the whole scope of thought which precedes, and resuming it in his own mind, as is his custom, as a causative point of departure in his reasoning, as he often does too with the word "for" (γάρ). The sense of what had been said led to this, "as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin." This brings us to ἐφ᾽ ὧ.

207   Ἐπί with a dative is primarily "upon," as ἐπὶ πίνακι, "on a dish"; hence is used for "besides," something added, ἐπὶ πᾶσι, in addition to all this, or above. Hence also as ἐπὶ τῆ προβατικῆ, ἐπὶ θύραις , but with the idea of actually touching. It is then used morally for a ground, motive, object, what characterizes an act. We use "upon" so, but with express words: I did it upon this ground, upon this condition. Greek uses it by itself, something which is, not the cause, but is supposed; without which the thing would not so be as we say it is. We are called not ἐπὶ ἀκαθαρσίᾳ under a supposition of being unclean persons when so called. Ἐπὶ τρισὶ μάρτυσιν, three witnesses were the condition of carrying out the judgment. Any necessary or true condition: "man shall not live by bread ἐπ᾽ ἄρτῳ." It was not the cause of life, but his life was involved in it; so ἐπὶ παντὶ ῥήματι. We say "to live upon." This use of ἐπὶ is very common; ἐπ᾽ ἐλπίδι ἀροτριᾶν. It was no cause of ploughing; still the ploughing was not to be without it.  Ἐπὶ τῶ ὀνόματί μου, the reception of the child is characterized by that as a motive. In English we must translate it variously, but it is easy to understand in Greek something supposed and viewed as involved in a thing happening, without which it would not be what it is, but not its cause.

Thus here, the origin of death amongst men, or cause of its entrance into man's world, was Adam's sin; but if we could suppose (what could not be save by this acting of God, as in the miraculous birth of Christ) a man born without sin, he would not be brought under death. Hence each person's sinning is supposed in its passing upon all: it is vorausgesetzt; death comes moyennant. It is ἐφ᾽ ὧ, "inasmuch as," or "for that" as in Authorized Version, not "because." A man was condemned because of his sin, or an elder judged; but it was ἐπὶ τρισὶ μάρτυσιν, that was a regular condition of his being condemned. The sinning exists as a fact connected with the dying: they do not die without it. The origin of death in the world was Adam's sin. It is not a condition set out a priori, as if it was uncertain whether they would, but a fact which comes in for those involved in death.

208 I do not think children enter into the question here — no more than when the apostle says, "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." They really begin to sin as soon as they begin to live: though it be undeveloped, their will works. I do not doubt they go to heaven: Matthew 18, I think, shews it, and the ground; but the apostle is looking at man manifested as man, that is, what he is and does. Children are saved, not by innocence, though practically an expression of it, but because Christ came to save what was lost. This question then I dismiss; I refer to it merely as an objection which might be made.

I do not think ἐφ᾽ ὧ has the sense "whereunto": if it were the object in its extent, it would be, I conceive, the accusative, if so used at all. What follows, to the end of verse 17, is a parenthesis, bringing in the question of law's place and bearing, and insisting that grace which met sin could not be narrowed up to law, though it met transgressions under it. And first it is asserted that sin was in the world when the law was not. True, a sin could not be reckoned as so much to an account; but death proved its reign over those who were not in the case of Hosea 6:7. Israel, like Adam, had transgressed a positive covenant; but sin was reigning in death over those who had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression. And Adam was a figure of the second Adam come in grace. Now though transgressions or offences, as verse 16, had to be met, yet the condition and state was the great point here, the many connected with him had been constituted sinners by Adam's disobedience; so the many connected with Christ were constituted righteous by Christ's obedience; but this was state and standing, not properly guilt as to things done. Sin was in the world before the law came.

As to ἐλλογεῖται, it is not ἐλογίζετο, "was accounted" (as righteous). The word is only used elsewhere in Philemon. It is not a person accounted righteous on whatever account, but a particular act or debt owing — put into an account. When there was no specific prohibition, there was no specific transgression. Sin was there, but there was no transgression. This requires a law to transgress. But the evil tree bears its fruits and proves what the tree is, and men are judged according to their works. But there was not as under the law positive transgression, which the government of God could deal with as so much to be reckoned to a man in that government. When God judges the secrets of men's hearts, their works will come out in the books, a witness of what the state of their hearts was, and all will see the light. The apostle speaks here as of the present condition of the world: you could not say you have transgressed here, broken the law there; but the reign of death proved that sin was there. But Adam was the figure of Him to come.

209 Shall the bearing of man's offence be greater than that of God's gift? Death was reigning outside the law; but by the offence of one many were dead: should not the grace of God much more abound to the many who labour under it, and not be confined to the Jews who claimed it? The state of sin was universal through Adam, the grace must be as wide in its address. Again, as by one's sinning came the charge or guilt leading to condemnation, should not the free gift be thus too? Yea, more, the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift, with many offences to meet, to justification; vs. 16. The first phrase is by one having sinned; the second "by one" is abstract, ἐξ ἑνός, of one [thing or person]: of one — that is its general character; then the free gift is ἐκ πολλῶν  - had that as its character. The first statement in verse 15 declares that as to the objects the sphere must extend to the many, since by the offence of one the many died. Grace must go out as far and brings in the man Christ Jesus, the last Adam, of whom the first was a figure, the thought necessarily involving it. The comparison to prove the extent in verse 16 is between the acts, as 15 between the objects. The guilt which led to condemnation was ἐξ ἑνός, a unity; the free gift being of God was of many offences. So as to the effect: by the offence of one, death reigned by one; much more the grace would triumph on the other hand, and they that received it would reign in life. In these three aspects grace in God triumphed over sin in man, and that by one man, not by every man for himself, the principle of law and individual judgment. As far as offences went, they had been multiplied, and grace could meet them.

Verse 18 resumes the general principle from verse 12, and is as abstract as possible. As by one offence towards all for condemnation, the direction and tendency of the one offence, so by one righteousness or righteous act accomplished towards all for justification of life; for it was in the risen Jesus they got it, from having been under death, and now justified if they had Him in life. For as by the disobedience of one the many connected with him were constituted sinners, put into that place; so by the obedience of one the many connected with Him were constituted righteous. The ὑπακοή is looked at as the whole principle of Christ's life, including as to its character, and proved by, obedience unto death. There was a disobedient man, proved in eating the forbidden fruit: he disobeyed God's will. There was an obedient man: He obeyed God's will. The character and measure of the obedience all through, as proved by it, was obedience unto death, the death of the cross. This had nothing to do with law.

210 There are, as the whole passage teaches and has for its object to teach, two heads of races, natural and spiritual: two persons, one in whom sin, the other in whom grace, came; and, further, that the law was a "moreover" (πλήν), which came in by the bye, παρεισῆλθεν, but that you could not shut the grace up to that, but must go to the two heads of sin and grace. The law merely came in that the offence might abound, but it was not only when offence, but when sin, abounded that grace abounded over it. Had righteousness replaced the reign of sin, judgment and condemnation only could have been the effect. But grace reigned, yet through righteousness, (on the principle of divine righteousness, fully established), and that to eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord: a complete summary of the whole ways of God. Death is looked at as death here reigning by sin; condemnation was out beyond that.

I turn to look at some of the words inquired of.

Παράβασις is positive transgression of a law which exists. Παράπτωμα, though applicable to transgressions, is a more general word and with a different sense.

Παράβασις goes beyond and transgresses an actual law or barrier set us by God. Hence there must be a law. Παράπτωμα fails or falls from the right condition in which we should hold ourselves. Transgressions do this, but every fault and failure does. This can be without a law. A Concordance will easily shew this. I am not aware of any case where παράβασις is used without direct reference to law (or tradition), unless the verb in Acts 1:25 (Judas παρέβη), and a case where another reading is preferred.

Δώρημα, χάρισμα, δωρεά require a keener, finer sense of shades of meaning to distinguish.

Δώρημα is the gift, χάρισμα the fruit of grace in the person giving. So far there is a shade in the way the same thing is given. I say such a thing was a gift, a free gift; I did not earn it. How came you to have it? It was pure grace (a χάρισμα) in the person who gave it me. One leads me to think of it as freely given, not earned, and given without condition or price, the others to what moved the person to give. The gift of righteousness is not by working or labour, or acquired fitness, or anything on my part. It is a free gift, δωρεά, but the δωρεά is ἐν χάριτι. God's divine favour and grace were the origin of this gift; so in verse 16 his mind goes up to God as a source; it is therefore χάρισμα in the beginning of the verse. And it is a gift — the fact simply; but is it not to be as large as the evil? It is a χάρισμα of God; this cannot but be. Whereas in verse 15 he is contrasting abstractedly man's fall and offence with God's giving: hence it is χάρισμα.

211 As to the difference of δώρημα and δωρεά, the former word is used but twice, here and in James 1:17, where the mind rests in the thing given, in δωρεά in its quality. In English we use "gift" for both. "What did you give for that?" "Nothing; it is a gift. I have it as a δωρεά." "What is your gift?" "It is a beautiful Bible, a δώρημα." So we use "hope" for the thing hoped for and the quality. That δωρεά is the quality we see when adverbially used, δωρεὰν ἐλάβετε, δωρεὰν δότε. Δωρεά  then is the general word which characterizes what I get. You may remark that all the words in verse 16 have this form, that is, are objectively looked at as a complete subsisting thing: δώρημα, κρίμα, κατάκριμα, χάρισμα. In James 1:17 we have δόσις and δώρημα.

As to these forms, and so in δίκαι — , many of your readers may be, but perhaps all are not, aware that the ordinary rule is, that words derived from the perfect passive have their force according to the person. The first person is the objective thing or act, the second the doing, the third the doer,    -  μα,  -  σις,  -  της: as κρίμα the judgment pronounced, the thing itself imputed; κρίσις judging as an act; κριτής the judge. So δόσις is properly giving, δότης a giver.

It may be added here that κατά compounded with a word gives intenseness to it, as ἔχω to have, κατέχω, to hold, hold fast, take and keep fast; χράω, καταχράω, to use as a possession what belongs to me. These become modified in use. Κρίμα is the thing of which I am accused and for which I am judged. Christ's κρίμα was put on the cross, what He was condemned for; it is the thing imputed to me. Κατάκριμα is actual condemnation.

212 Thus also δικαίωμα would be the objective sum total, which being accomplished gives me righteousness as far as that sum total goes: hence an ordinance, or such a fulfilment of required righteousness as makes my righteousness complete as to that. If it is before God, it must be according to God and absolute. Hence we have the δικαιώματα of the saints. Zacharias kept the δικαιώματα of the law blameless. It is the sum total of what is required. Δικαιοσύνη is the abstract idea or the quality, the thing righteousness. Δίκαιος is what any one is; δικαιοσύνη is that thing which having he is δίκαιος. Christ is made unto us δικαιοσύνη. I have this character before God; but the δικαίωμα of the law is to be fulfilled in us, the full requirement of the law. So verse 16 speaks "of many offences" to δικαίωμα, to the full requirement of what must be for me to be δίκαιος before God. It is not to justify me (however true before God), but the full sum of that needed for my being accounted just. Justification of life is δικαίωσις, the act of justifying, but being in the new place or state beyond death, it is in life as Christ is risen. In verse 17 I have the gift of δικαιοσύνης, that is, the state God sees me in or has given to me in Christ. But the one δικαίωμα is the full required total, the act which met the whole requirement.

I believe I have answered, I hope rightly, all the questions you have put to me. The English mind is little used to the niceties of Greek language; still they are often of value to one that studies, and result in greater general clearness of statement. Some of the verses of this passage are as badly translated as any in the New Testament, or worse, as especially verse 18. Those in the parenthesis (15, 16, 17) are all much clearer, I think, if put as a question.