Headship of Christ - Page 2 of 3 (series: Lessons on Romans)
by John Lowe
Much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. The Last Adam, Jesus Christ, is also the representative of a society. Since all are born into the society of death, the only way to enter Christ’s society, in which men are born unto newness of life, is to be born again. By the new birth experience, we pass from our old relationship to Adam into a new and living relationship with Christ. By the gracious gift of righteousness, a gift of overflowing grace, all believers reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. What wonderful grace this is! We are not only delivered from death’s reign as a tyrant over us, but we reign as kings, enjoying life now and eternally. Do we really understand and appreciate this? Do we live as the royalty of heaven, or do we grovel among the muckheaps of this world?
The abundance of grace has to do with all that God has accomplished and promised to do in Christ.
The gift of righteousness is bestowed by God on the basis of faith. Those who are receiving the righteous which Christ supplies will rein in life with Him. Because of what Jesus accomplished on the Cross, death no longer reins, but men reign in life. But why aren’t there as many who reign in life as there are who reign in death? It’s because grace and the gift of righteousness are rejected by more men than receive it.
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.
The two alls in this verse do not refer to the same people. The first all means all who are in Adam. The second all means all who are in Christ. This verse contains the underlying principal of the imputation of righteousness. This is the doctrine of the federal headship of the race in Adam and in Christ.
Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation. The offense of Adam brought condemnation to all men. All sinners are spiritually dead. This truth is clearly taught in the New Testament—“And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1). Therefore, all sinners are dead.
Even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. The righteous act of Christ brought justification of life to all. The righteous act was not the Savior’s life or His keeping of the law, but rather His substitutionary death on Calvary. This is what brought justification of life—that is, the justification that results in life—and brought it to all men. This is clear from the words in the preceding verse “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). The gift must be received by faith. Only those who trust the Lord receive justification of life. Those who were dead in their sins are made alive, because of the obedience of the Lord Jesus Christ that brought the grace of God down to all men. And through His obedience and finished work the Father can be just and even justify the most ungodly man who ever lived, when that man exercises faith in the lord Jesus Christ.
One Man’s righteous act is not a reference to a single event, but generally to Christ’s obedience, culminating in the greatest demonstration of that obedience, death on a Cross—“And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:9).
Free gift came to all men. This cannot mean that all people will be saved; salvation is only for those who exercise faith in Jesus Christ—“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek” (Rom. 1:16).
19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.
Here the contrast that is drawn is between deliberate disobedience and intentional obedience. God’s command to our representative Adam concerning the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was, “thou shall not eat of it” (Gen 2:17). Almost immediately the head of the human race disobeyed that divine command. However, Christ Jesus, the Last Adam, totally obeyed the will of God and testified to that when He said, “I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do” (Jn 17:4). The difference between obedience and disobedience is the difference between life and death. It was due to Adam’s disobedience to God’s command that many were made sinners, and in a similar way, it was by Christ’s obedience to the Father that many who trust Him are declared righteous. His obedience led Him to the cross as our Sin Bearer. It is futile for universalists to use these verses to try to prove that all men will eventually be saved. The passage deals with two federal headships, and it is clear that just as Adam’s sin affects those who are “in him,” so Christ’s righteous act benefits only those who are “in Him.”
Made righteous. This expression probably stands for a persons legal standing before God and not an actual change in character, since man will always have Adam’s sinful nature, and therefore will continue to sin under certain circumstances. It is also true, that Paul hasn’t introduced the doctrine of sanctification yet. Sanctification is the process through which the actual transformation of a sinner takes place. The term “made righteous” suggests the following meanings: “appoint,” “put down in the category of,” “constitute,” or “establish.” Because of the sin of Adam many were put intro the category of sinners. Because of the obedience of Christ many will be put into the category of the righteous.
20 Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more.
Moreover the law entered, that the offense might abound. At this point the Jew might ask, “Well then, what is the law for?” The law is “the necessary yardstick of God’s holiness which served to bring out into sharp relief the guilt of man in revolt against God, showing him the hopelessness of attempting to earn salvation by good works” (Gleason L. Archer, Jr., The Epistle to the Romans, p. 32). The law came not to make a man a sinner, but to show him how great a sinner he is. Paul added this explanation in his letter to the Galatians: “What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator” (Gal.3:19).