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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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Thursday, February 10, 2011
Romans 5:18
Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. - Romans 5:18 [ESV]


The verse, in the Greek begins with a double connective (αρα ουν) that doesn't lend itself all that well to an English palate, so that most translations lose a bit of precision at the beginning of this passage when they translate it as "therefore" or "so". A more accurate way to begin this verse would be to say, "consequently, these things being so", but comes off, as I mentioned, a bit more of a mouthful than most translators care for. Thus an emphasis that is there in the Greek is lessened in the English. The emphasis being that the argument Paul had just concluded is the foundation that what he is about to say must stand upon, that it cannot be rightly (and therefore should not be) understood apart from the previous argument.

Paul had just made an argument from the lesser to the greater in the previous verse. The lesser argument was that death's universal reign came into this world as a consequence of Adam's sin. Said another way, death's rule came about through Adam. One man's sin had a consequence that affected all men.

Paul used the the fact that death came into the world through the action of one man (in other words, the fact that one man's one-time action could have lasting and profound consequences for all men) to show that it was not only possible for Christ to do something that would have profound and lasting consequences - but because of who Christ is, it was an inescapable conclusion - if a man's one-time action can have such an effect, Paul argues, how much more so will the action of the Son of God - the Messiah - produce a lasting and profound consequence?

In this case, the consequence of Christ's action is that those who receive the abundance of grace and the gift of Christ's righteousness will in life be reigning over death and this through Jesus Christ.

Note this (because it will help us understand verse 18): not everyone reigns in live over death through Christ, but only those who have received an abundance of grace and (especially) the righteousness of Christ. That is, there are two groups - condemned sinners, and those who are saved by grace through faith in Christ.

Thus when Paul introduces this verse with what amounts to, "Consequently, these things being so," we expect that what he is about to say will look directly back, in some capacity, on what he has just finished saying.

One of the first things we notice in verse 19 is that there are no verbs in it.

In English, if we write a bunch of words without a verb, we have to rely on the reader 9and often punctuation) to imply a verb. For example, "To the victor the spoils." How would we understand that in English. We would probably throw in a colon to make it more readable, "To the victor: the spoils" - but either way we are left without a verb, and we have to guess at what the author is implying. However we want to portray the thought, most would agree that the intention of the author (in this case) is to show that the spoils go to, and become the property of, the victor.

The task of identifying the implied intention of the author, in this verse, is placed on any who would translate it. What relationship did Paul intend to imply? Simplified, Paul is saying something like this: through one act: judgment and condemnation; through the other act: justification and life. Paul is leaning on the previous verse to make this comparison, but some might, at this point, lose focus on what is actually being compared. I want you to see that what Paul is comparing is the two acts and their subsequent consequences.

The first act affected all men, the second affects all those in Christ - this is clear from the preceding passage which Paul points to as he introduces this thought. The comparison Paul makes is that if one man's action affects all men, how much more so will Christ's actions affect those who are in Christ. That is what Paul is getting at.

An interpretational problem arises however as we examine verse 18 because Paul used the same phrase twice (εις παντας ανθρωπους) in his comparison. The phrase literally translates thus: into all men.

Now you are probaly already familiar with the various "all" arguments, but just in case you are new to all this, the word here can mean every last one, just as easily as it can mean all kinds. To make matters more complicated, it can be used literally, and it can (and often is) used as an hyperbole. We know the difference between saying eat all your beans and all my friends showed up. In the former, I mean I want you to eat every last bean, but in the latter do I really mean that every friend I have ever had in my entire life showed up?

Some look at verse 18, and conclude that because the Greek text is identical in each comparison, we must conclude that the author means the same thing in both usages - that is, if Paul means that "all people" suffer the consequences of Adam's sin (and they do) then it must be that the consequences of Christ's act is justification for "all people" - meaning that Jesus saved everyone.

The problem with that is that Jesus did not save everyone.

Some people like to try and take the half-way position - Jesus died to make salvation possible for all men; such that even though the text says "leading to righteousness for all people" they say that what Paul really means is that the possibility of righteousness came to all people.

The problem I have with that is that it is introducing an idea into the text in order, not to clarify the meaning that is there, but to add a thing to what is there in order to give it the meaning they want to find in it.

I have more respect for the person who cites this verse to "prove" universal salvation, than I do for the one who imposes meaning on the text that can't be pulled from it.

When John the Apostle writes that Christ is the "savior of the world" (John 4:42, 1 John 4:14) we don't, if we are doctrinally sound, conclude that Jesus is going to save every last person who was ever born. We understand that to mean that Jesus is the only Savior in the world. There is no other salvation outside of Jesus. He is the world's only Savior - but that doesn't mean that He saves everyone in the world, it only means that He is the one who Saves people in the world and no one else does.

Thus when we read in, 1 John 2:2 that Jesus "is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world", we don't conclude, as some are zealous to do, that this means that Jesus' death satisfied God's wrath against every last person on earth - that is, we do not conclude that everyone's sins are propitiated - rather we understand it to mean that Jesus is the only propitiation for anyone's sin, be that our sins, or anyone's sins in the whole world. Jesus isn't just the propitiation for the sins of John and company - He is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world.

So also then, when Paul writes in Romans 5:18 that the righteousness of Christ leads to life for all people, he isn't suggesting that everyone receives eternal life in Christ - Paul isn't a universalist - Paul is simply saying that this single, righteous act of Christ resulted in the only justification of life there is.

It isn't that Paul didn't mean what he said, it is that what he said doesn't mean what some people narrowly insist it means. Paul meant exactly what he said - that Christ's righteous act ended in justification for all people - which is not the same as saying justification for every last person on earth.
posted by Daniel @ 7:42 AM  
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