Headship of Christ - Page 1 of 3 (series: Lessons on Romans)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

Headship of Christ

Romans 5:15-21

15 But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many.
16 And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned. For the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation, but the free gift which came from many offenses resulted in justification.
17 For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.)
18 Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life.
19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.
20 Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more,
21 so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

When we belonged to the old creation under Adam, death and sin reigned; now that we are in Christ in the new creation—“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Cor. 5:17), grace is reigning, and we are reigning in life—“For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ” (v. 17). You can live like a king by the grace of God!

15 But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many.

But the free gift is not like the offense. Here, Paul continues the contrast between Adam and Christ, but what is the contrast between the two men? God created Adam a free moral agent, with the right to choose. God placed him in a garden of perfection, and instructed him what to do and what not to do. Adam willfully sinned; his sin was the result of willful disobedience on his part. Through the offense of Adam the many (i.e., all of Adam’s descendants) incurred the penalty of death. Similarly, the many (i.e., all the redeemed) have incurred the free gift of eternal life through the Last Adam, Jesus Christ. The free gift is the marvelous expression of the grace of God abounding to a race of sinners. Death here may include spiritual as well as physical death.

There are some who will read these lines that will object by saying, “Why should I suffer, why should I burn in hell for Adam’s mistake and his disobedience to God’s command?” You will not! If you burn in hell it will be your own choice; it will not be because of Adam’s transgression.

For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God. The grace of God, which is the ground of our justification, is contrasted with the sin of Adam, because it is greater in quality and greater in degree than Adam’s sin. Paul has already established that all people, without exception, bear the guilt of sin and are therefore subject to death. In Adam we got what we deserved, condemnation and guilt. In Christ we have received much more of what we do not deserve, mercy and grace. Today, we are looking forward to something more wonderful than the Garden of Eden. Paul tells us,“These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth” (Heb. 11:13).

In these verses, Paul has put forth a reality which the modern world must be aware of. It is that the life of one person affects many others—“no man is an island.” No man lives to himself, and this truth can be amplified to prove that no one is so obscure that his actions do not reach out in ever-widening circles to effect men whose name he doesn’t know and of whose very existence he has been completely unaware. What Christ has done for us can alter the character of every single person and can transform the nature of the common life which all men share together.

And the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus

Christ. The free gift was made possible by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ. Christ’s one act of redemption was immeasurably greater than Adam’s one act of condemnation. It was amazing grace on His part to die for His rebellious creatures. Through His death, God has provided a way of escape…a remedy. God gave the best heaven had, and all you need to do to miss hell is to accept the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross. Receive Him and God will do the rest—“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (Jn. 1:12-13).

Abounded to many. The two “manys” in this verse do not refer to the same people. The first many includes all who became subject to death as a result of Adam’s trespass. The second many means all who become members of the new creation, of which Christ is the Head. It includes only those to whom God’s grace has abounded—that is, true believers. While God’s mercy is showered on all, His grace is given only to those who trust the Savior.
16 And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned. For the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation, but the free gift which came from many offenses resulted in justification.

And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned. Paul highlights the differences between Adam’s sin and Christ’s gift, between the terrible havoc wrought by one sin and the tremendous deliverance wrought from many sins, and finally between the verdict of condemnation and the verdict of justification. The heart of Paul’s argument is that grace is mightier than sin.

For the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation. Not only is our guilt derived from one man’s sin, but it is derived from only one sin of that man. Notice that Paul never refers to the “offenses” of one man, but to the offense (singular) of one man (vss. 14–15, 17–20). It is not the sins of Adam’s lifetime that have been imputed to us, but only his original sin. That one sin brought inevitable judgment, and the verdict was “Condemned.” Those who refuse to receive the salvation of Christ are condemned to death and an eternity of separation from God—in hell.

But the free gift which came from many offenses resulted in justification. The righteousness which is imputed to us by Christ, through the free gift of God’s grace, covers not just that one offense but many offenses, and brought about the verdict of “Acquitted.” Paul clearly means that the benefits from being pardoned by God’s grace is “for all,” and he has in mind an abundant life which is given to all those who will accept the benefits. Grace is amazing in the way it operates. No matter how widely we have strayed or how often we have fallen, the offer of mercy is always there. Here grace is called a “free gift” because we don’t deserve it and there is no way we can earn it.

Now I realize that this is a difficult section of the Bible to understand and this is one of the most difficult passages. To make it a little simpler, all this section means is this: one transgression plunged the whole human race into sin; and one act of obedience and the death of Christ on the Cross makes it possible for lost men to be saved.

17 For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.

In this verse, we have the two ideas of verses 15 and 16 combined into one by Paul through divine inspiration.
For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one. Due to Adam’s sin death reigned as a cruel tyrant. As the representative head of the human race, Adam’s offense dethroned him as the ruler of God’s creation. Consequently, death became the ruler of nature. Adam became the representative of a death-destined society. As long as we are born into that society, death is our destiny as well.

Death reigned as a cruel tyrant. Adam transgressed God’s commandment that he must not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:17). This command was a test of Man’s obedience to God. Man failed the test, and with the coming of sin into man’s experience, death also came. Death became king. It reigned supreme. Adam’s actions brought the reign of death.

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