Gordon E. Johnson


A Bridge to a Life of Victory in Christ (cont'd)

Romans 5:17-21 (NKJ)

Gordon E. Johnson
Rio Grande Bible Institute


In our last study on a Bridge to a Life of Victory in the Last Adam, Christ, Paul laid the foundation for the next major advance in his presentation of the Gospel in all of its fullness. After our perfect standing of being fully justified before a holy and gracious God, the problem of sins (plural) had been solved.  But there remained more to be done; the problem of the sin nature and the power of that nature must be faced in the justified believer. Paul's greater concern now is the basis or the «how »of sanctification or daily Christ likeness.

Paul traces the sin problem back to its very historic roots: "Therefore just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned" (Rom. 5:12).  What or who would be the remedy for this urgent problem? Paul sets forth the headship of the first Adam that involved us all in death and condemnation and the Last Adam who now brings a whole new spiritual race into being. As strange as this comparison of two federal heads so very diverse may seem to be, Paul will make his case abundantly clearly.

A Series of Contrasts and Comparisons – the Theological Answer   Romans 5:15-21

What could be more different than Adam and Christ? One failed miserably to obey God; Christ on the contrary heard on several occasions: "This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased"  (Matt. 3:17; 17:5; John 12: 28). Paul has made it abundantly clear that while we were born in sin and of necessity born into the Adamic race with its attendant death and condemnation, we are now no longer in Adam.  We are in Christ. Our new standing is clearly outlined in Romans 5:1-6: the sevenfold blessing of peace, access, standing in grace, hope, tribulations that produce Christ-like character, the love of God shed abroad in our heart and finally the Holy Spirit is our seal and gift.  This has been a radical re-birth; we are new creatures in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17; Col. 1:12-14).  This is who we are now. This truth must be grasped in faith before we can proceed farther.

Romans 5:15 and 16 set forth the two contrasts: "But the free gift is not like the offense . . . and that the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned."  How diverse is the gift from the offense! One brings undeserved grace and joy; the other brings guilt and fear. These two concepts cannot coexist in terms of our standing.  But in their diversity Paul makes the point so crucial to the future Christian life: "For if by one man's offense many died, MUCH MORE the grace of God and the gift of the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ abounded to many" (15).

The three comparisons between Adam and Christ produce in their followers the totally diverse consequences of Romans 5:17-21. In Adam our sin produced ultimate death and condemnation, but the Much More in Christ of our standing has ushered us into life and justification. But Paul goes one step further: "For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinner, so also by one Man's obedience many will be made righteous" (5: 19).This is a final remedy for the sin problem. It consists totally in our new position, our oneness or solidarity with the Last Adam. We return again to our justification which will lead us into our sanctification in Romans 6:1-14.

A New Focus and New Reality Awaits the Believer in Christ

Even a cursory reading of the «a fortiori» arguments of Paul underlines several realities that faith must grasp.  Five times in thirteen verses Paul says: MUCH MORE (vv. 9, 10, 15, 17, 21). Nothing the adamic nature can bring to the believer can stand in the way of the dúnamis--power of the Gospel to transform life and conduct. Furthermore the two verbs that resonate throughout the passage are «abound» and «to reign in life».  There is nothing niggardly or meager about the outcome.  The Christian life lived in the power of the gospel must be nothing less than a triumphant life. Resources in Christ abound in spite of any inherent evil our nature may bring.  This has a powerful impact on whatever may be our genetic inheritance or our family tree. We cannot blame our past for the failures of our walk.  No past can impair our future. We are in Christ.

One Last Pronouncement of our Solidarity with a Risen Christ   Romans 5:20-21

Sin is activated and energized by the law. "For by the law is the knowledge of sin" (Rom. 3: 20).  But the law's last word cannot stand in the face of God's grace. "But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life though Jesus Christ our Lord." (5:21). Notice carefully it is not we who reign --we saw that in verse17 --but rather God's grace that reigns in us. Whatever victory could be ours is his, never ours. And it is victory, not in miracles and signs and wonders but in righteousness, that is, holiness and humility and love.  These are the signs of Christ living his life through us.

How deeply we need to lay hold of the truth of our absolute oneness with Christ. A new position becomes a new condition.  We can never doubt our past tragic relationship with Adam. Sickness, death and sin are inevitable facts of life. But Paul is actually saying MUCH MORE  is the surety of our present relationship with Christ. Once again Paul's arguments lend full reason to faith that will lead to the blessed reality of Romans 6 through 8.

Now and only now are we prepared to answer the immediate question of Romans 6: 1: "What shall we say then? Shall we continue to sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?"  This will bring us into our next study, crucial to our understanding of victory, the abundant life in Christ.

Powerful Points to Ponder

1.  The dynamic of justification is the blood of Christ shed for the remission of sins Rom. 5:9, while the dynamic of sanctification is the risen life of Christ Rom. 5: 10.

2.  The overriding message of Romans 5:12-21 is the MUCH MORE of Christ's work and our oneness with him in that death and resurrection process.

3.  We can more readily doubt our connection with fallen Adam than we can doubt our solidarity with Christ. That oneness is the anchor of our walk of faith.

4.  The Christian life cannot be an uneasy truce between the first Adam and the Last Adam. The Christian life can never be defined as a struggle in terms of our resources in Christ.

5.  Our new position in justification is now under girded by our new standing in a Risen Christ which will issue in a new condition of sharing in his death and risen life.

Dr. Gordon E. Johnson
Rio Grande Bible Institute