Romans 5:15

Romans 5:12-21 (see also 1st Corinthians 15:21-242nd Corinthians 5:14-15)
Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned-- for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification. For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous. The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The first key is the scope of those to whom death spread, and its absolutely everyone, unless you know of someone that is not subject to the Fall of man. Therefore, “the many” who died (as a factor of the Fall of man), also has to be absolutely everyone. Finally, the grace of Christ that abounds to the many, should logically be the same as well. 

Adrian Rogers: “I had rather live in Romans 5 than in the Garden of Eden! You gain much more in Jesus than you ever lost in Adam. That’s the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”  (Foundations for our FaithVol.II, A Study In Romans Chapters 5-9, p.13, emphasis mine)

Adrian Rogers: “One man sinned and got us into troubleone Man died on the cross and got us out, plus He forgave every sin and promises us eternal life.” (Foundations for our Faith, Vol.II, A Study In Romans Chapters 5-9, p.17, emphasis mine)

One member of The Society of Evangelical Arminians: “Now, it seems logical that since Adam’s one sin has caused condemnation and death for every single person that Christ’s work has caused justification and life for every single individual. Isn’t that what the verse is saying? Remember that I said the word receive was important in v.17. We are only united to Christ by receiving the abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness. In Adam, we basically had no choice. Who taught us to lie? Who taught us to steal? The evidence is clear that we are all under sin: no one escapes death. The world is skewed because of sin, BUT Christ reverses that. In Him, we have a REAL choice – ‘Repent, and believe in the gospel.’ Christ’s free gift of righteousness is available to all, but not all receive it. It is through His obedience that we are made righteous. This is what God said His Messiah would do (See Isaiah 53:11). I previously said that we now have a real choice because of Christ. That is true, but we must realize that though we choose Christ, the choice is non-meritorious. Choosing the good doesn’t earn us anything. It is Christ’s obedience that has earned us everything. Choosing the right allows us to simply receive the righteousness that Christ has already attained for us.” (SEA)

Carol Floyd asks: “Don’t you think that in God’s eye that the whole world now has been set free through Jesus? If not, then why did He say so? What other is left for God to do to complete the way to bring us back into favor with God? The work is complete, and the price is paid, and the gift is free. We are now free to come and receive our free gift of grace and mercy. There is not one ever born that the price has not been paid for in full. No sin left, that it does not cover.”

As I understand it, some Calvinists infer of Romans 5:15 that it is only speaking of the Calvinistically elect who are “condemned” and the Calvinistically elect who are “justified.” However, at Romans 5:15, two points seem apparent: (1) Paul continually emphasizes that there is an equal number between those to whom “condemnation” extends and those for whom “justification of life” extends, and (2) it doesn’t appear that Paul is trying to make a case that only certain people are condemned, but that literally the whole world stands condemned. John Calvin’s commentary (shown below) concedes the point that all men are indeed condemned in sin (which seems obvious anyway). His resolution is that “justification of life” is not secured for all, but “offered” to all. 

John Calvin: “If Paul were there maintaining that the grace of Christ extended to all, I should in silence own myself vanquished. But since his purpose is to show how much more powerful in the faithful is the grace of Christ than the curse contracted in Adam, what is there here to shake the election of those whom Christ restores to lifeleaving the others to perish?”  (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.152, emphasis mine)

Yes, Paul does indeed show that we gain much more in Christ than we ever lost in Adam, but the source of controversy, here, is regarding extends and reaches vs. offered. John Calvin does agree that the grace of Christ is in fact, “offered to all,” though it does not reach all, so that all are saved:

John Calvin: “Paul makes grace common to all men, not because it in fact extends to all, but because it is offered to all. Although Christ suffered for the sins of the world, and is offered by the goodness of God without distinction to all men, yet not all receive Him.” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries: Romans and Thessalonians, pp.117-118, emphasis mine)

John Calvin: “Hence, we conclude that, though reconciliation is offered to all through Him, yet the benefit is peculiar to the elect, that they may be gathered into the society of life. However, while I say it is offered to all, I do not mean that this embassy, by which on Paul’s testimony (II Cor 5:18) God reconciles the world to Himself, reaches to all, but that it is not sealed indiscriminately on the hearts of all to whom it comes so as to be effectual.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.149, emphasis mine)

John Calvin: “It is incontestable that Christ came for the expiation of the sins of the whole world.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.149, emphasis mine)

​What Romans 5:18 tells us is that there is a symmetrical correspondence between those to whom Adam’s transgression abounds and those to whom the scope of Christ’s atonement abounds.

one transgression...resulted condemnation to all men.”

one act of righteousness...resulted justification of life to all men.”

John Goodwin: “The persons upon whom the gift of justification cometh by Christ, are made equal in number unto those upon whom the judgment of condemnation came by Adam. For as the offense of Adam is here said to have come upon all men unto condemnation, so also is the gift of justification of life....” (Redemption Redeemed, p.65, emphasis mine)

​Question: Is the “death” that “spread to all men” meant to exclude anyone? Also, is the “condemnation to all men” meant to exclude anyone? Is Paul setting up a parallel of equal number, between those to whom condemnation has spread, and those to whom justification extends?

Answer: All men were indeed brought under judgment because of Adam’s sin. However, the Calvinist response interprets Romans 5:15 to mean that all are justified, and since Universalism is false (and only believers are justified), the context must be restricted to the condemnation and justification of believers (and by extension, the Calvinistically elect).

​Question: Who does Paul say is condemned? All men, or some men?

Answer: If the answer is all men, then the Calvinist is forced to agree with the Arminian, that justification is a provision for all, and not that all men are, in fact, justified, which is Universalism, and which everyone, including every Calvinist, fully knows that Arminians reject. So I can agree with John Calvin that all men are condemned, and I can agree with John Calvin that not all men are justified, but that justification extends to all men via an offer, which offer, is guaranteed by the universal provision of Calvary.

One particularly difficult challenge for the Calvinist is to suggest that this text is only referring to the prior condemnation of believers, given the language of the text which otherwise supposes all men to literally mean everyone. Its much simpler to instead suppose that the text is referring to the sufficiency of Calvary to justify all men, rather than meaning that all men are, in fact, justified.

Death spread to all men, because all sinned.” (v.12)

For if by the transgression of the one the many died.” (v.15)

​Question: By the transgression of one, Adam, “the many” came under the penalty of death. Therefore, since Paul uses the same term, “the many,” to identify the scope of those to whom the free gift of Christ’s grace abounds, are we not forced to conclude that the same number of people who are held captive by the power of sin are offered the grace of salvation from the power of sin?

Answer: 2nd Corinthians 5:14-15 confirms: “For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.

John Goodwin: “Again, neither can God, nor any minister of the gospel, say with truth to every particular man, if thou believest thou shalt be saved, unless it be supposed that there is salvation purchased or in being for them all.” (Redemption Redeemed, p.74, emphasis mine)

That addresses the commentary by John Calvin, in which Calvin agreed that all men are condemned (and not just believers), and agreed that not all men are justified, but only that the “offer” of justification extends to all men. The counter-argument to John Calvin is that if the atonement of Calvary is offered to all, then Jesus must have died for all, and which John Calvin seemed to agree with as well. Where John Calvin diverged, is in terms that God only determines an elect caste to secretly receive justification. So John Calvin was speaking very closely along the lines of a 4-Point Calvinist (Supralapsarian, which is technically classified as High Calvinism, subscribing to Determinism.)

​Question: How can you offer Jesus to all, if Jesus is not the Savior of all, and did not die for all?

Answer: Obviously, then, a universal “offer” of salvation makes the doctrine of a non-universal scope Atonement, erroneous.