This chapter consists of two main sections: A and B. In A we are shown that the basic result of justification by faith is peace with God. Other blessings are associated with it. In B the main emphasis is on the generous character of the salvation provided by God.
A. (verses 1-11) Paul has reached a new phase in the discussion of justification by faith. He begins to fix the attention of the hearers-readers on the favorable effects resulting from justification. First of all he mentions “peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” As 5:10 makes clear, this peace is basically “reconciliation with God through the death of his Son.” Associated with this peace are such other blessings as access to God by faith and a joyful looking forward to the marvelous salvation God has in store for those who have placed their trust in him. Even present suffering for the sake of Christ and his kingdom cannot dim the luster of the glory that is to come and in principle is being experienced even now. In fact, such suffering is really a link in the chain of blessings: suffering, perseverance, proven character, firmly anchored hope. This hope is kept alive and strengthened by God’s love “poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit” (verses 1-5).
Christ’s timely death for the “ungodly” is a demonstration of God’s love. By way of rare exception someone might be willing to sacrifice his life for a worthy person, but God demonstrated his own love by means of Christ’s death for us while we were still sinners (verses 6-8).
Not only has our legal standing been changed from “guilty” to “righteous,” i.e., from condemnation to justification, but our personal relation to God has also changed. Through Christ’s death former enemies were changed into friends. It was God himself who brought about this reconciliation. Now if God has reconciled to himself enemies, he will certainly save friends. Believers need not become alarmed about any future divine wrath. With a view to all these blessings, present and future, even now “we exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (verses 9-11).
B. (verses 12-21) In a sentence beginning with verse 12, recaptured (as to essence) in verse 18a, and completed in verse 18b, the apostle states, “Just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all mankind, since all sinned; that is, as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all men, so also one act of righteousness resulted for all men in justification issuing in life.”
“In Adam’s fall we sinned all.” Adam, by means of his transgression of an express divine command, involved all mankind in his sin and guilt. The entire human race is viewed as being already “in” Adam. Moreover, being involved in sin implies being involved in death. The reality of sin did not depend on the establishment of the Mosaic law. Even during the period Adam-Moses sin was taken into account, for God’s law had been written in man’s heart (cf. 2:14, 15). This explains why it is right to state that death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who did not sin by transgressing an express command, as did Adam (see Gen. 2:16, 17; 3:1-6). In this connection Paul calls Adam “a type of him who was to come,” Adam being considered the head of fallen humanity; Christ, the head of redeemed humanity (verses 12-14).
In the remainder of the chapter the apostle shows that as all men were included in Adam, so also “all men,” that is, all those who belong to Christ, whether they be Jews or Gentiles by race, are included in Christ. The parallel Adam-Christ is, however, mainly one of contrast, as now becomes very clear. Paul says, “For if, by reason of the trespass of the one the many died, much more did God’s grace, and the gift that comes by the grace of this one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many.” Adam’s transgression brought condemnation. Christ’s voluntary sacrifice of himself for his people brought justification issuing in life. Moreover, grace is ever far more effective than sin. “Where sin increased, grace increased all the more.” Did grace merely offset sin and death, so that mankind returned to the state of innocence, that of Adam before the fall? On the contrary, grace changed death into a gain, substituted righteousness for sin, and everlasting life for death. All this “through Jesus Christ our Lord” (verses 15-21).