Copyright © 1993 by Westminster Theological Seminary, cited with permission.
THE OBEDIENCE OF FAITH
IN THE LETTER TO THE ROMANS
Part III: The Obedience of Christ
and the Obedience of the Christian
D. B. GARLINGTON
THE investigation of the obedience of faith in Romans, commenced
some three years ago,1 has thus far yielded two basic conclusions. (1)
The phrase u[pakoh> pi<stewj (Rom 1:5; 16:26) embodies a twin idea: the
obedience consisting in faith and the obedience arising out of faith.2 (2)
Faith's obedience, defined in the first instance as perseverance, is the link
between present justification by faith and eschatological justification for the
"doers of the law" (Rom 2:13). We come now, in the concluding study, to
consider the role of Christ, the obedient one, who ensures the obedience of
his people. Our attention will be directed to Romans 5.
I. Romans 5 within the Scheme of Chaps. 5-83
As one reads these chapters, one cannot help but be impressed with the
series of antitheses constructed by Paul, which in very, broad terms may be
reduced to the following elements. Chap. 5: life in Christ vs. death in
Adam; 6:1-7:6: newness of life in Christ vs. death and bondage to sin and
the law; 7:7-8:39: life and liberty in union with Christ and the Spirit vs.
captivity to the flesh, even in spite of indwelling sin and the believer's
groaning for the redemption of the body (7:14-25; 8:18-25). In each in-
stance, the motif of the believer's once-for-all break with the past and his
entrance into a new state of affairs stands out in prominent relief: an old
pattern of existence is broken in order that a new mode of life may begin.
1 WTJ 52 (1990) 201-24; 53 (1991) 47-72.
2 "Though that faith begins for Paul as a ‘hearing’ . . . it does not stop there. It involves
the entire personal commitment of a man/woman to Christ Jesus as ‘Lord’.... The word
u[pokoh< implies the ‘submission’ or total personal response of the believer to the risen Lord"
(J. A. Fitzmyer, "The Semitic Background of the New Testament Kyrios-Title," in A Wandering
Aramean: Collected Aramaic Essays [
3 A portion of this segment of the article is adapted from my "Romans 7:14-25 and the
Creation Theology of Paul," TinJ ns 11 (1991) 202-6. The purpose is to set forth a salvation-
historical structuring of the chapters without pretending that this is the only way of ap-
proaching the text. On the complexity of chaps. 5-8 as a whole, see J. C. Beker, Paul the Apostle:
The Triumph of God in Life and Thought (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1980) 84-85.
This is the Christian's "definitive sanctification,"4 inasmuch as the repre-
sentatives of the old age—sin, death, the law, and the flesh--have been
overthrown and caused to release their grip on those who are now in Christ.
There is, accordingly, a pronounced Christological focus to each phase
of the believer's transformation from his old condition to the new. Chap. 5
highlights our solidarity with Christ as he heads up the age to come, in
opposition to our former union with Adam, who is the head of "'the present
evil age" (Gal 1:4). In 6:1-7:6 the believer has died to sin and has been
raised in newness of life; because he has died to the law through the body
of Christ, he is discharged from that which held him captive, so that
"now," i.e., in this new phase of world history, he serves not in the oldness
of the letter but in the newness of the Spirit. Chap. 8 makes explicit the
connection between the sonship of Christians and the sonship of Christ: we
are the sons of God because he is the Son of God. In the Son our lives are
no longer characterized by fear and bondage to the flesh; it is to the image
of the Son that we are being conformed; and it is by virtue of the indwelling
Spirit of the Son that we now walk after the Spirit, as formerly we walked
after the flesh.
Hand in hand with the ethical and Christological dimensions of these
chapters there is a conspicuous time-element. Echoing 3:21, the "eschato-
logical nu?n" is present in 5:10; 6:21; 7:6, 17; 8:1; and even when the "now"
of salvation is not expressly mentioned, it is nonetheless just beneath the
surface of all of those passages which speak of the definitive break with the
old age. From the ethical point of view chaps. 5-8 can be viewed as Paul's
delineation of the eschatological (resurrection) life of the people of God,
those upon whom "the ends of the ages have come" (1 Cor 10:11). The
frequent occurrence of "life" throughout the section takes us back to 1:17,
where, according to Paul's use of Hab 2:4, life is the outcome of the righ-
teous man's faith, as well as 4:17-21, according to which Abraham's faith
was in the God who raises the dead. Ultimately "life" is a creation concept,
stemming from Genesis 1 and 2 (cf. Rom 2:7).5
Therefore, from 5:1 through the end of chap. 8 one can discern that Paul
runs the entire course of salvation history, from old creation to new. After
the transitional paragraph of 5:1-11, 5:12-21 depicts the disobedience of
the old humanity in Adam and the obedience of the new in Christ. The next
section, 6:1-7:6, speaks further of the inception of the new creation with the
death and resurrection of Christ: the oldness of the letter has given way to
the newness of the Spirit. As an outgrowth of an objection raised and
answered in 7:7-12, 7:13-25 articulates the overlap of the two creations,
with its resultant tension in the believer's inward being. Chap. 8 finally
predicts the glories of the consummated new creation. The substructure of
burgh: Banner of Truth, 1977) 2.277-84.
5 See "Obedience of Faith, II," 57-58.
THE OBEDIENCE OF FAITH 89
Romans 5-8, therefore, can be viewed as the passing away of the old cre-
ation and the advent of the new. Paul thus announces the arrival of the
eschaton or, most pointedly, the new creation. It is as though this entire
portion of the letter were an elaborate commentary on 2 Cor 5:17. We are
thus alerted that the purview of Romans 5 in particular is not to be confined
to justification, at least not to the narrowest possible sense.6
In this light, we see that Paul's running debate with Judaism is continued
into the present stage of the letter. The essential difference between him
and the Jewish outlook lay precisely in his conviction that, in Christ, the
eschaton had arrived. Thus, the argument of chaps. 5-8 grows out of what
has preceded. Given the assumption of 3:21-4:25 that faith in Christ has
secured both justification and the promise to Abraham of a seed, it follows
that in Christ the life of the new creation is here. (It is frequently noted that
from 5:1 to 8:39 za<w and zwh<, used some 24 times, dominate Paul's
II. Rom 5:1-11: Reconciliation and New Creation
Some commentators make 5:1-11 the conclusion of what has preceded
(3:21-4:25), while others classify it as the beginning of a new section of the
letter (chaps. 5-8).7 Actually, it makes relatively little difference which
course we follow, because these verses are essentially a transitional passage
containing ideas from the previous part of the argument (faith, grace, sin-
ners, justify, blood, enemies, wrath, the resurrection of Christ) as well as
those which pave the way for what is to follow (suffering, endurance, hope,
the Holy Spirit, the love of God, future salvation as the result of past
6 E.g., J. Murray, The Epistle to the Romans (NICNT; 2 vols.;
1968) 1.179, 184, 185.
7 There are variations, of course. For example, R. D. Kaylor, Paul's Covenant Community:
Jew and Gentile in Romans (Atlanta: Knox, 1988) 93; Beker, Paul, 85. The ensuing exposition
accepts that chaps. 5-8 stand as a unit, whose substructure is comprised of a theology of creation.
Cf. my "Romans 7:14-25," 203-4. The leading parallels between 5:1-11 and chap. 8 are listed
by N. A. Dahl, Studies in Paul (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1977) 88-90, and D. J. Moo, Romans
1-8 (Wycliffe Exegetical Commentary; Chicago: Moody, 1991) 323.
8 On the place of chap. 5 within Romans, see the analyses of Moo, Romans, 300-303; J. D.
G. Dunn, "Paul's Epistle to the Romans: An Analysis of Structure and Argument," ANRW
2.25.4, 2855-58; G. Bornkamm, "Paulinische Anakolouthe," in Das Ende des Gesetzes: Paulus-
studien (BEvT 16; Munich: Kaiser, 1966) 81-82; R. P. Martin, Reconciliation: A Study of Paul's
Theology (Atlanta: Knox, 1981)136--40; E. Brandenburger, Adam and Christ us: Exegetisch-religions-
geschichtliche Untersuchungen zu Röm. 5,12-21 (1 Kor. 15) (WMANT 7; Neukirchen: Neukirchener
Verlag, 1962) 255-64; N. Elliot, The Rhetoric of Romans: Argumentative Constraint and Strategy
and Paul's Dialogue with Judaism (JSNTSup 45; Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1990) 226; J. A. T.
Robinson, Wrestling with Romans (London: SCM, 1979) 57; M. C. de Boer, The Defeat of Death:
Apocalyptic Eschatology in 1 Corinthians 15 and Romans 5 (JSNTSup
Press, 1988) 148-49. Elliot (Rhetoric, 226) maintains that Romans 5 in toto is the pivot on which
the letter's argument turns, and A. Nygren thinks that the chapter is the "
The particular terms "ungodly," "sinners," "enemies," and "wrath,"
as compared with "justified," "saved," and "reconciled," articulate a con-
trast between the believer's past and his present. Kaylor is correct that this
contrast is organized around the theme of reconciliation. As illustrated
most graphically from Hosea, reconciliation derives its meaning from Is-
rael's covenant relationship with God: "Reconciliation implies the resto-
ration of a previous condition and as such builds upon the idea of a
covenant within which God and
subsequently disrupted. . . . God
though God remained faithful,
other lovers (gods)."9 Reconciliation, seen in this light, is nothing less than
the restoration of a broken marriage. That it is a central concept for Paul
emerges from 2 Cor 5:16-21, where, as in Rom 5:1-11, Paul can charac-
terize his new covenant ministry as one of reconciliation for both Jew and
Structurally the paragraph can be analyzed
according to the "
pattern so frequent in Romans.10
A: vv. 1-2, the two direct results of justification by faith
B: vv. 3-10, the relation of these two
A: v. 11, the two direct results of justification by faith
1. The Two Direct Results of justification by Faith, vv 1-2
The first result is peace with God. It is peace which particularly high-
lights the eschatological dimension of what has transpired with the work of
Christ. The term "peace" (= "rest") is one that characterizes the OT's
Messianic outlook (e.g., Isa 9:6-7; 32; 52:7; 57:19; Ezek 37:26; Hag 2:9; cf.
Num 6:22-26). In the prophetic expectation, the Messiah is the "Prince of
Peace" (Isa 9:6), in whose person Yahweh's Mvlw will attend the time of
worldwide bliss, the new creation, when the lion and the lamb dwell to-
gether and war is no more. It is too often overlooked, however, that the
the lines of Paul's thinking converge (Commentary on Romans [
209). Nygren, rightly in my view, links chap. 5 to chaps. 6-8, as do others (see Moo, Romans, 300
9 Kaylor, Community, 93-95; quote from pp. 94-95. See further Martin, Reconciliation,
10 See throughout A. Feuillet, "Le plan salvifique de Dieu d’apres l’Epitre aux Romains,"
RB 57 (1950) 336-87,
489-529; J. J. Collins, "Chiasmus and the ‘
in Studiorum Paulinorum Congressus Internationalis Catholicus (
Press, 1963) 2.575-83. From another point of view, these verses exhibit chiasmus ("ABBA"):
A: peace, 1-2a
B: hope, 2b
B: hope, 3-5
A: peace, 6-11
THE OBEDIENCE OF FAITH 91
direct background to Rom 5:1 is Isa 32:17-18: "And the work of right-
eousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and as-
surance forever. And my people shall dwell in a peaceful habitation, and
in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting places." According to the prophet,
the Mvlw of the restored
to the covenant (hqdc), an event commensurate with the outpouring of the
Spirit of Yahweh (v. 15) and the appearance of a king whose own rule is
characterized by righteousness (v. 1). Rom 5:1 thus announces the fulfill-
ment of Isaiah's oracle in the rightwising of the believer in Christ, again
suggesting that Paul's parameters are broader than simply justification as
a past forensic act, since against the backdrop of Isaiah 32 dikaio<w broad-
ens to include the new
vindication/restoration/blessing of the people of God has been procured by
Christ, as attended by the effusion of the love of God into our hearts by the
Holy Spirit (Rom 5:5). The long-awaited eschaton is here, because cosmic
peace (Mvlw) and salvation have been proleptically manifested in Christ
and disclosed in our obedience to his lordship.12
We may add that at the other end of this overall segment of the letter,
in 8:31-39, is to be found the counterpart. The questions of 8:33 are taken
from Isa 50:8-9, which embody the challenge of the obedient Servant of
Yahweh to his enemies to set forth their case in the presence of God the
Judge, who, he is confident, will exonerate him from all wrongdoing. The
context of Isaiah's Servant-song is replete with new creation associations,
signifying that the blissful future for
of the hvhy dbf. For Paul this Servant is Christ, in whom eschatological
vindication has been secured for the latter-day people of God. Nevertheless,
the conspicuous fact is that Paul refers these rhetorical questions not to
Christ directly but to Christians, who, with the same confidence of the
Servant himself, can call upon God to vindicate them from the accusations
of every enemy.
11 Cf. the comments on the dikaio<w group in "Obedience of Faith, II," 50-51. Although,
strictly speaking, "rightwise" is a more comprehensive term than "justify," the two will be
used synonymously throughout. That dikaio<w, in 5:1, summarizes 3:21-4:25 is not a partic-
ular problem for this more inclusive reading of the verb, since 4:18-22 stresses the persevering
quality of Abraham's faith. Apart from the claim that dikaiosu<nh qeou? is a technical term
taken over by Paul from Jewish Apocalyptic, underlying this exposition are the perspectives
Fortress, 1969) 168-82, as reflected in his Commentary
on Romans (
Eerdmans, 1980) e.g., 79-80, 154-58. See further de Boer, Defeat of Death, 150-56; Beker, Paul,
12 Beker, Paul, 264. Cf. de Boer, Defeat of Death, 236 n. 35; Bultmann, Theology 1.276, 278.
Beker's treatment of "grace" is also relevant. Once grace in Paul has been loosed from its
privatistic Western moorings, says Beker, and placed in its original apocalyptic setting, it is
seen to refer to both a cosmic power and to the domain of our life in Christ. Though this study
does not in any sense endorse the notion of an infused righteousness, Beker is correct that the
historic debate concerning gratia imputata versus gratia infusa bypasses Paul's basic intent (Paul,
In light of these findings, Rom 5:1 and 8:31-39 can be looked upon as a
kind of inclusio, signaling the commencement and the conclusion of a major
section of the letter. In the case of both, with their respective OT backdrops,
there is an identification of the covenant community with a central cove-
nant figure (Servant-King): his obedience forms the matrix of his people's
obedience and consequent blessings. This, we shall argue, is the conceptual
framework of Rom 5:12-21, which forms Paul's horizons as he develops his
The second effect of justification is the Christian's boasting in the hope
of the glory of God. The combination of e]lpi<j and h[ do<ca tou? qeou? is
distinctively eschatological in impact. "Hope" is faith directed to the fu-
ture,13 and "the glory of God," according to 8:18-25, is the consummation
of the new creation and, by implication, the rectification of Adam's failure
to be God's image (3:23). Indeed, 8:18, 24-25 again combine glory and
hope, as the believer is pointed forward to the renewal of the creation and
the redemption of the body. Paul, then, asserts that present reconciliation
has as its consequence the assurance that one may anticipate the consum-
mate fullness of a new heavens and a new earth. The Christian, in other
words, may be assured that his hope in Christ will not expose him to
eschatological shame;14 and such hope is vital because in between there is
the reality of suffering, tension, and groaning as one anticipates the end, the
peculiar emphasis of 7:14-25 and 8:18-25. Perseverance thus becomes the
keynote of Christian existence as long as the tension of the "Already" and
the "Not Yet" in the cosmic plan of God remains unresolved.
2. The Relation of the Two Effects of justification by Faith, vv. 3-10
In this "B" section of the paragraph Paul correlates the two results of
justification, taking them up in reverse order (thus the possibility of a chi-
astic ordering of the verses). To be more precise, vv. 3-5 expand on hope,
and vv. 6-10 explicate peace (= reconciliation).
Anticipating 7:14-25 and 8:18-25, vv. 3-5 relate that the believer's hope
is alive precisely because of the presence of trials. As Beker explains, these
are the tribulations of the end-time (Paul's modification of the Messianic
woes), which Christians do not merely endure, but rather glory in.15 The
very fact of suffering, in its own way, is a sign that the ages have taken a
decisive turn in the cosmic purposes of God. Tribulation, however, neces-
sitates hope, a hope produced by the love of God poured into our hearts by
13 Cf. J. M. Gundry Volf, Paul and Perseverance: Staying in and Falling
Westminster/Knox, 1990) 50 (n. 11), 55. See the excellent remarks on hope in Paul by Beker,
14 Cf. Gundry Volf, Paul and Perseverance, 50. "Shame," particularly in the prophets, is
synonymous with judgment. The imagery stems from Genesis 3: the shameful nakedness of
Adam and Eve was the reversal of their original glory.
15 Beker, Paul, 146.
THE OBEDIENCE OF FAITH 93
the Holy Spirit, in keeping with the prophetic prediction that the Spirit
would be poured out in the age to come (e.g., Isa 32:15; Joel 2:28-29).
Vv. 6-10 bring to the fore the work of Christ as effecting (Messianic)
peace with God. We note only two of the verses' prominent features.
First of all, Paul repeatedly emphasizes the person of Jesus as he elab-
orates this result of justification. This is due to his insistence that the es-
chaton has arrived in Christ; and life in Christ is the life of a new epoch and
domain. The phrase e]n Xrist&? for Paul, as Beker confirms, "has essentially
a participatory-instrumental meaning and signifies the transfer to the new
age that has been inaugurated with the death and resurrection of Christ." 16
When we look back to 3:24, we can see that 5:6-10 is a commentary on
Paul's claim that justification is by God's grace through the redemption
which is in Christ Jesus. Consequently, what differentiates Paul's conception
of righteousness from Jewish apocalyptic eschatology is that "this right-
eousness (both as God's redemptive action and as gift) finds its apocalyptic
disclosure (a) in the event of the death of Jesus Christ, and thus, as Rom 3.21
radically puts it, (b) ‘apart from the law’."17
Second, vv. 9-10 are a statement of inauguration and consummation in
the saving purposes of God: what Christ has done for us in the past he will
bring to completion in the day of judgment. The two verses explicate each
v. 9: if justified by his blood, then (how much more) saved from (eschatological)
v. 10: if reconciled by his death, then (how much more) saved by his (resurrection)
The past redemptive event in Christ has given rise to hope in the be-
liever, a hope which has as its primary focus the future eschatological
consummation of the new creation. Or, as Elliot puts it, vv. 9-10 "relocate
the soteriological fulcrum in the apocalyptic future: the gracious justifica-
tion and reconciliation of the impious is made the basis for sure hope in the
salvation to come."18 Paul thus polarizes past and future as the epochal
stages of the salvation experience, with an assurance that although the
consummation of redemption is still outstanding, the believer can take
comfort that God's purposes cannot fail.
It is normally observed that the argument is akin to the rabbinic qal
wahomer pattern, which can be viewed as either a minori ad majus or a maiori
16 Ibid., 272.
17 De Boer, Defeat of Death, 155-56. As C. H. Cosgrove rightly contends, the accent in
3:21-31 is universality: "Faith as access to redemption . . . is open to both Jew and Gentile"
(`Justification in Paul: A Linguistic and Theological Reflection," JBL 106  665).
18 Elliot, Rhetoric, 229. See further Beker, Paul, 176-81.
ad minus, depending on how the interpreter assesses the force of the argu-
ment.19 Although it may be misleading to speak of a "greater" and a
"lesser" strictly speaking, given the magnitude of both the past and the
future dimensions of the Christian's redemption, I favor a minori ad majus,
because, without minimizing the significance of Christ's death, his sacrifice
must eventuate in the final salvation of his people in order to accomplish
its goal. The salvific process is commenced with present justification
(dikaiwqe<ntej nu?n), but it will not be consummated until we are finally
saved (swqhso<meqa).20 And "the process of consummating the work of
salvation is more like an obstacle course than a downhill ride to the finish-
line. For the destiny of Christians does not go unchallenged in a world
opposed to God's purposes. The powers of evil in the form of afflictions and
trials threaten continuity in their salvation."21 Thus, for instance, Cran-
field's remark22 that deliverance from eschatological wrath is, in relation to
justification, "very easy" fails to appreciate the formidable nature of the
"obstacle course." Given the qli<yeij which attend the life of faith this side
of the resurrection, the great thing, from the perspective of the present
passage, is yet to be accomplished.
3. The Two Direct Results of justification by Faith, v. 11
Verse 11's restatement of vv. 1-2 displays the
genius of the "
of writing, because it is not a mere verbal repetition of vv. 1-2 but is shaped
by the intervening material of vv. 3-10. Thus, there are some significant
variations. (1) Boasting in the hope of the glory of God becomes boasting
in God through Christ, the reversal of Paul's former boast in Yahweh and
the Torah (2:17, 23). (2) Reconciliation becomes virtually synonymous with
"justification," "peace," and "access" (v. 2), which, in salvation-historical
terms, relates to man's pristine condition of dwelling in the immediate
presence of God in paradise (cf. the way Rev 21:5 and 22:2 correlate the
renewed presence of God with access to the tree of life).23
19 E.g., Gundry Volf, Paul and Perseverance, 53; Moo, Romans, 318; C. E. B. Cranfield, A
Critical and Exegetical
Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans (
1975) 1.266. See further Str-B 3.224-26; H. Müller, "Der rabbinische Qal-Wachomer-Schluß: Zur
Adam-Christus-Typologie in Rm 5," ZNW 58 (1967) 73-92; Brandenburger, Adam, 221-24;
S.-H. Quek, "Adam and Christ according to Paul," in Pauline Studies: Essays Presented to F. E.
Bruce on His 70th
(eds. D. A. Hagner and M. J. Harris;
20 The disputed last clause of 4:25, h]ge<rqh dia>
th>n dikai<wsin h[mw?n, makes perfectly
good sense as a reference to eschatological justification, being equivalent to swqhso<meqa in
5:9-10, particularly as 5:10 stresses that ultimate salvation is due to the life of Christ.
21 Gundry Volf, Paul and Perseverance, 81.
22 Cranfield, Romans 1.2666.
23 "Justification or reconciliation, is, as we have already been told, the initial act of a
process; but it carries with it the assurance that the process will be completed" (C. H. Dodd,
THE OBEDIENCE OF FAITH 95
In sum, as the transition from chaps. 1-4 to 5:12-8:39, 5:1-11 explicates
the believer's reconciliation in such a way as to announce the arrival of the
new creation (cf. 2 Cor 5:17-19, which does the same). From both the
juridical and experiential points of view, a radical change has been effected
in the Christian's standing before God and in his way of life: whereas once
we were "sinners" and the "ungodly" enemies of God under his wrath, we
now have been justified and reconciled and rejoice in the hope of eventual
III. Rom 5:12-21: Adam and Christ. Disobedience and Obedience24
1. Structure and Relation to the Preceding
Because of its connection with 5:1-11, 5:12-19 proceeds to develop a
theology of the obedience of Christ, as contrasted with the disobedience of
Adam. As Elliot observes, the section takes shape around Paul's "breaking
and realignment of typological correlations," formed on the structure "just
as ... so also" (w[j/w!sper . . . ou!twj).25 The paragraph, as is commonly
known, exhibits the most conspicuous example of Pauline anacolouthon.
The train of thought commences in v. 12; but because Paul felt the necessity
of a justification and elaboration of this statement, he does not formalize his
analogy until v. 18. The section would appear to
follow the "
The Epistle of Paul to
correlation of justification and reconciliation is rightly grounded in the parallel of the two in
Rom 5:1-11. Karl Barth entitles the whole of chap. 5 "The Gospel as Man's Reconciliation
with God" (A Shorter Commentary on Romans [London: SCM, 1959] 55).
24 Account can be taken of only a cross section of the growing mass of literature on 5:12-21
alone. See the bibliographies of Cranfield, Romans 1.270-71 n. 1; Käsemann, Romans, 140; U.
Wilckens, Der Brief an die Römer (EKKNT 6; 3 vols.; Neukirchen: Neukirchener Verlag, 1978-
82) 1.305-6; Quek, "Adam and Christ," 74-75 nn. 4-5; J. D. G. Dunn, Romans (WBC; Dallas:
Word, 1988) 1.244-45; Brandenburger, Adam, 280-85; H. A. Lombard, "The Adam-Christ
‘Typology’ in Romans 5:12-21," Neot 15 (1981) 97-100; S. L. Johnson, "Romans 5:12—An
Exercise in Exegesis and Theology," in New Dimensions in New Testament Study (eds. R. N.
Longenecker and M. C. Tenney;
NIDNTT 1.88. Access to the Jewish materials on Adam (though interpreted variously) may
be had through Brandenburger, Adam, 15-57; J. Jervell, Imago Dei: Gen 1,6f. im Spätjudentum,
in der Gnosis and im den paulinischen Briefen (FRLANT 58; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck &
Ruprecht, 1960) 15-121; R. Scroggs,
The Last Adam: A Study in Pauline Anthropology
Blackwell, 1966); J. R. Levison, Portraits of Adam in Early Judaism: From Sirach to 2 Baruch
(JSPSup 1; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1988); Str-B 3.226-29; W. D. Davies, Paul and
Rabbinic Judaism (3d ed.;
Structure of Romans V.12," NTS 19 (1972-73) 339-54; S. Kim, The Origin of Paul's Gospel
(WUNT 2/4; Tübingen: Mohr, 1981) 162-93; H. Schlier, Der Römerbrief (HTKNT 6; Freiburg:
Herder, 1977) 183-89.
25 Elliot, Rhetoric, 229.
A: v. 12: the initial statement of the old humanity's solidarity with the first Adam
and its consequences
B: vv. 13-17: justification and elaboration of the proposition begun in v. 12
A: vv. 18-19: recapitulation and formal statement of the analogous work of Adam
and Christ and its consequences
[Vv. 20-21 lie outside the Adam/Christ analogy proper.]
Numerous commentators are correct that the "therefore" of v. 12 is to be
connected with the whole of vv. 1-11. Yet the paragraph can be reduced to
two overlapping notions. For one, there is the juxtaposition of the believer's
former condition (ungodly, sinners, enemies, wrath) with his present one
(justified, saved, reconciled). The section 5:12-21, then, takes us back to the
inception of "this present evil age," with the fall of Adam, and explains
that our past existence was the result of the disobedience of the first man.
At the same time, however, we are informed that our current condition is
due to the work of another Adam, who by his obedience has introduced a
new creation.26 In brief, "Adam is the head of the old aeon, the age of death;
Christ is the head of the new aeon, the age of life."27 Or, as Paul expresses
it to the Corinthians, "As in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made
alive" (1 Cor 15:22), and, most pointedly, "If anyone is in Christ, [there is]
the new creation; the old things have passed away, behold, all things have
become new" (2 Cor 5:17).
Second, there is the Christian's assured perseverance due to the life of the
risen Christ, 5:9-10. It is true that the new creation has arrived because
"peace" and the "hope of glory" are the immediate effects of rightwising
by faith. Nevertheless, this new creation must be consummated, and the
people of God must endure qli?yij until their adoption is complete
(8:18-24). Therefore, the Adam/Christ analogy is intended to ground the
final perseverance of the saints in the perseverance (obedience) of Christ
himself, because the one who now lives by the power of an indissoluble life
(Heb 7:16) was obedient unto death (Phil 2:8). It is just here that the
perspectives of 5:1-11. merge: as we once bore the image of Adam and were
compelled to repeat his disobedience, so now we bear the image of Christ
and are privileged to imitate his pattern of suffering followed by glory (cf.
1 Pet 1:3-12).
These constituent elements of 5:1-11, combined with the "therefore" of
5:12, alert us that the horizon of 5:12-21 is not to be restricted to a past
forensic declaration. What is at stake in Romans 5 in its entirety is salvation
in the broadest sense—the new creation inaugurated and consummated—
and the necessity of perseverance until the old creation is thoroughly dis-
placed by the new. Thus, while dia> tou?to remains diflicult,28 the inference
26 See Nygren, Romans, 210-11; F. J. Leenhardt, The Epistle to the Romans: A Commentary
(Cleveland: World, 1961) 141.
27 Nygren, Romans, 210.
28 See the discussion of the various options by Moo, Romans, 328-30.
THE OBEDIENCE OF FAITH 97
drawn from vv. 1-11 is to this effect: the Christian's entrance into the new
creation and his assurance of enjoying its finalized bliss depend on his union
with the living Lord, who is another Adam and the truest image of God.
From a slightly different perspective, very much compatible with the out-
look of the Fourth Gospel and Hebrews, we might say that the one who
takes charge of the new creation is, at the same time, the new Creator: it
is through his work that all things have become new (2 Cor 5:17).
2. Paul's Creation Typology
The verses exhibit an observable swing from the personal and individual
language of 5:1-11 to a different key in which "the whole sweep of human
history is embraced by the two epochs instituted by Adam and Christ."29
The perspective of vv. 12-19 thus differs from vv. 1-11 in its cosmic focus.
Yet the continuity between the two paragraphs is equally noticeable by
virtue of "the re-emergence of the reversal theme in explicit terms of the
two men whose single acts of disobedience and obedience encapsulate and
determine the character of the two epochs which together span human
history. A very effective conclusion is thus achieved by showing how the
sweeping indictment of Adamic humanity in 1.19ff., and repeated sum-
marily in 3.23, is more than answered by the abundance of grace through
It is in keeping with this cosmic/salvation-historical perspective that
Paul continues to retrogress from the Torah backward in history. In chap.
4 he appealed to Abraham's priority to the law; and here he takes a further
step back to Adam and the creation, thus recapitulating the argument
begun in 1:18, in which he depicted the revelation of God's wrath as the
outworking of the primal covenant relationship between the Creator and
his creatures (the punitive side of the dikaiosu<nh qeou?). Paul's tendency
in Romans to move back beyond the Torah, a tacit denial of its eternity, is
further illustrated by 2:12-16, according to which creation accounts for the
law shared in common by Jew and Gentile.
At the head of old and new creations respectively are the first Adam and
the last. In Acts 17:26 Paul is reported to say that God made from one (e]c
e[no<j) all people to live on all the face of the earth; and here the comparison
of the two
singular act of disobedience or obedience the whole race has been affected
for ill or for good. With all the debate on particulars, the one given of the
passage is that each division of humanity is in solidarity with its leader, so
that the action of the "one" has a bearing on the condition of the "many."
29 Dunn, Romans 1.271. Dunn further observes that the final sentence of chap. 5, which
serves as a transition into the next phase of the discussion, places side by side the two quasi-
powers who dominate the old aeon (sin and death).
30 Dunn, "Analysis," 2856. Cf. Moo, Romans, 326.
Of course, there is no overall consensus as to the mechanics of the solidarity
in question.31 Since Paul does not say explicitly what impels his logic, the
exegete must reconstruct from his world of thought, which can be under-
stood variously. Corporate personality is a possibility, though it has not
escaped criticism;32 and while it cannot be dismissed entirely, Käsemann is
correct that "Decisive in the interpretation of our text . . . is not the com-
parison of two heads of a generation, but of the two figures, in sharp du-
alism, who alone inaugurated a world of perdition and salvation, so that
they cannot be listed in a series of ancestors." "In dualistic contrast Christ
and Adam are now the bearers of destiny for the world determined by
Thus, in interpreting Rom 5:12-21 it is vital to see that Paul's vision
encompasses the whole of creation. "The spheres of Adam and Christ, of
death and life, are separated as alternative, exclusive, and ultimate, and
this happens in global breadth. An old world and a new world are at issue."34
Consequently, given the creation focus of 5:12-19 (and chaps. 5-8 as a
whole), man as the image of God springs immediately to mind. It is through
the first and last
or successful likeness of the Creator. The identification and character of all
people thus depend on Adam or Christ, the "direct" images of the invisible
God. Therefore, the primal principle of creation continues: like begets like.
The "many" and the "all" bear the likeness of the "one" in that they
derive their being and nature from him and imitate his example. This, we
shall argue, most effectively opens up Paul's intentions in this highly con-
Paul's Dialogue with
This portion of Paul's letter is more than just a teaching model to explain
the nature of the new creation which has arrived in Christ; it is, in fact,
integral to his interaction with the Jewish point of view. In the words of J.
C. Beker, “Jew and Gentile are now subsumed under the one figure of
Adam, who by his transgression sealed ‘all men’ . . . under sin and death.
The subject is no longer Jew or Gentile but ‘the many.’”35 Taken within
the Epistle to the Romans (ICC; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1895) 132; Moo, Romans,
340. The various attempts to relate the personal and corporate aspects of sin and death
are discussed in full by Moo, ibid., 335-41.
32 See S. E. Porter, "The Pauline Concept of Original Sin, in Light of Rabbinic Back-
ground," TynBul 41 (1990) 16 (with literature). Akin to corporate personality is the "ancestor-
descendant" motif, i.e., the descendant is affected by the actions of the progenitor. See J.
Cambier, "Péchés des Hommes et Péché d'Adam en Rom. V.12," NTS 11 (1964-65) 221,
33 Käsemann, Romans, 142-43, 146. Cf. A. Oepke, TDNT 2.542
34 Käsemann, Romans, 147 (italics mine).
35 Beker, Paul, 15.
THE OBEDIENCE OF FAITH 99
its polemical context, Rom 5:12-19 bears witness to the radicalness of Paul's
the idea that the people of
and the remedy for the ills of Adam's disobedience (Sir 10:19; 17:1-17).36
Similar ideas characterized apocalyptic as a whole.37 Moreover, in at least
one rabbinic text, Gen. Rab. 14.6, Abraham appears as a second Adam,
compensating for the failure of the original Adam. As N. T. Wright has
demonstrated, the Adam theology of Jewish literature is intended to ad-
vance a claim about
specific purpose, i.e., to mark out this nation as God's true humanity and
the realization of his creation designs. In brief, "Adam has become em-
bodied . . . in
On reflection, one can say that there is a legitimate sense in which a new
beginning was made with Abraham and continued into subsequent Isra-
elite history. However,
made for her and that she alone was meant to reprise the role marked out
for Adam, consonant with the fact that it was the law—the embodiment of
true wisdom—which formed the charter of
the way of God's true humanity.39 As a result, Paul's contemporaries were
insistent that participation in the new creation was possible only within the
parameters of the chosen people and their Torah.
This means that the apostle's qualification of the Jewish position is an
important one, inasmuch as all the promises of God find their "yes" in
Christ (2 Cor
of God, it was only that in the fullness of time this new beginning might,
in Christ, be extended to the ends of the earth. The role traditionally
as God's true humanity.40 He is bold enough to say, on the one hand, that
humanity outside of Christ—including
still participates in the effects of his sin ("ungodly," "sinners," "enemies,"
"wrath"). On the other hand, with equal boldness, he asserts that everyone
in Christ—regardless of ethnic identity and commitment to the Torah—has
entered the new creation with its blessings ("justified," "saved," "recon-
ciled"). In general terms, 5:1-1.1 describes weak, ungodly people who have
36 See D. B. Garlington,
" [IEROSULEIN and the Idolatry of
36 (1990) 145-47; id., ‘The Obedience of Faith’: A Pauline Phrase in Historical Context (WUNT
2/38; Tübingen: Mohr, 1991) 58-60.
37 De Boer, Defeat of Death, 153-54.
38 N. T. Wright, "Adam in Pauline Christology," SBLSP 1983, 360-65 (quote from p. 364).
Cf. Jervell, Imago Dei, 31-37.
39 Wright, "Adam," 361-63.
40 Ibid., 365-87 (esp. pp. 370-73). Wright qualifies, however, that Christ does not simply
judgment, and thus must deal with the "many trespasses" and condemnation resultant from
sin (ibid., 371-72). He later contrasts the redemptive
work of Christ with
failure to redeem the world, seeking, rather, to rule it (p. 389).
missed the way of God's covenant nation.41 However, the real impact (scan-
dal) of Romans 5 as a whole
is precisely the involvement of
It is the role played by Rom 5:12-21 within
Paul's dialogue with
which, at least in part, serves to inform us of his intentions; that is, Christ
has succeeded where Adam and
accomplish his mandate of bringing the earth to its full potential, its
"eschatological" state. Another son of God,
atrous by exchanging the glory of the immortal God for images (Rom 1:23
= Ps 106:20; Jer 2:11).43 In the case of Paul's contemporaries, the disobe-
dience in question was a failure to be loyal to the God of Israel because of
an idolatrous attachment to the Torah.44 By way of contrast, the obedience
of Christ, as we shall argue, can be defined as his perseverance in faith and
his consequent realization of what man was intended to be in the first
Adam. Our treatment of the passage, then, will concentrate on those as-
pects of Paul's argument which stand at the forefront of his claim that the
last Adam has succeeded where the first Adam fell short.
4. The Disobedient First Adam and the Old Humanity
(1) Adam's Sin as the Gateway of All Subsequent Sin and Death. Verse 12, the
protasis of Paul's sentence, to be completed by the apodosis of vv. 18-19, is
a statement of cause and effect: through one man sin and death entered into
the world, so that death (has) spread to all men because all, in some sense,
(have) sinned. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Paul does not speculate
about the way in which sin entered the world: he is concerned with uni-
versal experience, not cosmic speculation. However, it is equally true, con-
trary particularly to Dodd, that he is concerned with origins, if for no other
reason than to lay the foundation for the origin of righteousness in Christ.
If, as Dodd affirms, in Adam humanity is corporately sinful,45 it is precisely
because Adam was the first disobedient man. Adam, most pointedly, is the
origin of sin and, consequently, death in the world: "Adam sums up and
symbolizes all this humanity both in his person and in his behaviour, and
41 Kaylor, Community, 100.
42 The joint failure of Adam and
43 Cf. G. C. Berkouwer, Sin (Studies in Dogmatics; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971) 274.
Berkouwer has seen that the sin of
covenant by Adam (Hos 6:7). Cf. B. B. Warfield, "Hosea VI.7: Adam or Man?" in Selected
Shorter Writings of
Benjamin B. Warfield
(ed. J. E. Meeter;
Reformed, 1970) 1.116-29.
44 This is the thesis of my " [IROSULEIN." Cf. "Obedience of Faith, II," 51-52, 55. On
the kindred idolatry motif of Acts 7:39-53, see J. Kilgallen, The Stephen Speech: A Literary and
Redactional Study of Acts 7,2-53 (AnBib 67; Rome: Biblical Institute Press, 1976) 90-98.
45 Dodd, Romans, 80.
THE OBEDIENCE OF FAITH 101
the conditions of life of every individual are moulded by it."46 As Dunn
reminds us, Adam (Mdx) means "man": what can be said of Adam can be
said of men in general, and what is true of men in general is true of Adam.47
Thus, "In the fall narrative of Genesis 3 ‘all subsequent human history lies
encapsuled’; its incidents are re-enacted in the life of the race and indeed,
to some extent, of each member of the race."48
Of course, what Paul precisely means is a matter of both historical and
contemporary debate.49 Consequently, it is possible only to set forth certain
conclusions without entering in detail into the debate. The controversy
centers chiefly on the last clause of v. 12, Paul's depiction of the plight of
mankind outside of Christ. Sin and death first entered the world di ] e[no<j
a]nqrw<pou, yet death spread to all people, in Paul's words, e]f ] &$ pa<ntej
h!marton. Käsemann identifies v. 12d as the real interpretive problem,
where, in his view, the motif of destiny which dominates v. 12a-c gives way
to that of the personal guilt of mankind.50 Of course, not everyone sees in
these words personal guilt at all, but the imputed guilt of Adam's original
trespass. So, in what sense is it meaningful to say pa<ntej h!marton, thus
accounting for the dissemination of death and suffering among the human
race? The various answers to the question have understandably focused on
e]f ] &$ and h!marton, to which we shall give some attention; yet the scope
of rreivreg is not irrelevant to the discussion.
The Augustinian equation of e]f ] &$ with in quo ("in whom," i.e., Adam),
grammatically and lexically speaking anyway, has been discounted by
modern scholars, even if theologically one accepts that mankind sinned "in
Adam."51 With some degree of confidence at least, it can be said that the
expression is either idiomatic, meaning "because" or "in that," or equivalent
to e]pi> tou<t& o!ti, grounding the death of mankind in the circumstance that all
have sinned.52 Either lends itself to the interpretation herein proposed.
46 Leenhardt, Romans, 141 (see his perceptive comments on pp. 140-44). Cf. Nygren, Ro-
Various Jewish authors attributed the advent of sin to Satan (e.g.,
Eve (e.g., Apoc. Mos. 32.2), not Adam directly. Paul himself can associate Eve with humanity's
fall (Rom 7:11; 2 Cor 11:,3; 2 Tim 2:13-14), without, however, holding her responsible for it.
Deut. R. 9 (206a), like Paul, blames Adam. 2 Apoc. Bar. 54.15 also formally agrees with Paul
that it was Adam who sinned first and brought death upon all who were not in his own time
(but see below n. 65).
47 J. D. G. Dunn, Christology in the Making: A New Testament Inquiry into the Origins of the
Doctrine of the Incarnation (London: SCM, 1980) 101. Cf. Davies, Paul, 55.
48 F. F. Bruce, The Epistle of Paul to the Romans (London: Tyndale, 1963) 126.
49 These have been detailed by Cranfield, Romans 1.274-79; id., "On Some of the Problems
of the Interpretation of Romans 5.12," SJT 22 (1969) 330-38; Johnson, "Romans 5:12,"
306-13; J. Murray, The Imputation of Adam's Sin (repr.
50 Käsemann, Romans, 147.
51 E.g., Murray, Imputation, 9 n. 10; Bruce, Romans, 130.
52 S. Lyonnet, "Le sens de e]f ] &$ en Rom 5, 12 et l’exégèse des Péres grecs," Bib 36 (1955)
436-56, as followed by numerous scholars (but see the criticisms of Brandenburger, Adam,
171-720). For example, M. Black, Romans (NCB; London: Oliphants, 1973) 89, proposes that
The referent of h!marton is a much more complicated matter. For reasons
to be clarified presently, the view propounded here is that the verb has to
do with the human situation resultant from its union with Adam. Paul, in
other words, explains the universal sway of death to be due to the sin =
apostasy of mankind, as rooted in the sin = apostasy of the first Adam.
!Hmarton, accordingly, gives voice to mankind's repetition (in principle) of
Adam's trespass, thus giving rise to the spread of sin and death throughout
the human family. Among the commentators, the stance assumed by me is
approximated by Cranfield (following the lead of Calvin), who understands
h!marton in terms of "the fruit of the desperate moral debility and cor-
ruption which resulted from man's primal transgression and which all suc-
ceeding generations of mankind have inherited."53 This is preferable, I
think, to the imputation of Adam's guilt. However, even it is not precisely
It is not to be overlooked that in Romans 5 Paul's thought is steeped in
the creation. Thus, while it is true that humanity in Adam inherits a "sinful
nature," eventuating in an aversion to God and his law, the most relevant
thing we can say is that man in Adam enters the world devoid of the Spirit of God.
As writers in the Reformed tradition have affirmed, Adam was made to be
the temple of the Holy Spirit.54 Therefore, when he fell, he forfeited the
indwelling of the Spirit, so that all his descendants emerge from the womb
bereft of the Spirit. As formed in the likeness of "the man of dust" (1 Cor
15:49), man in Adam, in Paul's words elsewhere, is a yuxiko>j a@nqrwpoj
(1 Cor 2:13),55 possessing, in his fallenness, an a]do<kimoj nou?j (Rom 1:28).
Vis-à-vis Cranfield and others, Ridderbos and Berkouwer are quite right
that the present context directly concerns fallen man's immediate in-
volvement in Adam's sin and death, not moral corruption as such.56 This
is why I have sought to emphasize that "sin" in the first instance is not
so much "depravity" as a (damnation-) historical state iintroduced
the expression should be translated "wherefore, from which it follows
[= thus providing
proof], that all men, like Adam, sinned." Another alternative is proposed by Cambier ("Péchés," 242-51),
who renders e]f ] &$ as "celui qui," with a]nqrw<pouj as the antecedent.
53 Cranfield, Romans 1.278; id., "Problems," 335-40; Calvin, Romans, 111-12; id., Institutes,
2.1.8. Cf. Leenhardt, Romans, 141-46; Sanday/Headlam, Romans, 134. "Surely there must be
something inherent in being human that causes everyone, without exception., to decide to
worship idols rather than the true God" (Moo, Romans, 335; cf. p. 341). Moo, however, favors
the imputation of Adam's sin.
54 G. Smeaton,
The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit (repr.
10-17; M. G. Kline, Images of the Spirit (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1980)13-34; Garlington, "Ro-
mans 7:14-24," 214.
55 The yukiko>j a@nqrwpoj of 1 Cor 2:13 is the one to whom the things of the Spirit of God
are foolishness. Man stemming from Adam is not only sw?ma yuxiko<n constitutionally (1 Cor
15:44), he has become yuxiko>j a@nqrwpoj in the pregnant sense of the phrase, i.e., bereft of
the Spirit and unable to discern the plan of God for the ages.
56 H. N. Ridderbos, Aan de Romeinen (Commentaar op het Nieuwe Testament; Kampen:
Kok, 1959) 116; Berkouwer, Sin, 497.
THE OBEDIENCE OF FAITH 103
by Adam.57 Human failing is a reality; yet, in perspective, it is but the
by-product of the apostasy bequeathed by Adam, whose hallmark is the
absence of the Spirit.58 Again thinking in salvation-historical terms, con-
firmation is had by Paul's teaching that the impartation of the Spirit is a
new creation (cf. John 3:6, which also draws on the principle that like begets
like). In becoming the renewed image of God, man in Christ is again
indwelt by the Spirit, whose
that whereas the first Adam forfeited the Spirit, the last Adam, in his role
as life-giver, restores the Spirit (1 Cor 15:45). In this regard, Paul actually
transcends the Adam-model in his representation of Christ by ascribing to
him the role of the Creator-Spirit of Gen 1:2; 2:7.
It can be said, then, that Paul's intent in the latter part of v. 12, par-
ticularly evident from the words "and so death spread to all men," is
original death more than original sin; it is original death that furnishes the
background for the actual theme of the section: the origin of life. 59 Adam's
a[marti<a, as chaps. 5-8 clarify, is not so much this or that infraction of the
divine law; it is, rather, a state of estrangement and condemnation, which
can do no other than produce death in the all-embracing sense.60 In this
regard, Moo correctly surmises that sin is given an active role: it "reigns"
(5:20; cf. 6:13); it can be "obeyed" (6:16-17); it pays wages (6:23); it seizes
opportunity (7:8, 11); it "kills" (7:11, 13); it is a power that holds sway in
the world outside of Christ, bringing disaster and death on all humanity.61
57 Cambier points out that the epochal coming of sin into the world parallels the epochal
advent of Christ as "the coming one" ("Péchés," 232-33).
58 This interpretation does not really assume an implicit "middle term," i.e., a bridge from
sin to ours (Moo, Romans, 337, 354;
every person into the world ipso facto guarantees immediate involvement in Adam's sin and
death. But even if such a middle term is required, it is one provided by creation itself. Like
begets like: as Adam sinned (apostatized), so have his progeny, who bear,his image.
59 R. Bultmann, "Adam and Christ According to Romans 5," in Current Issues in New
Testament Interpretation: Essays in Honor of Otto A. Piper (eds. W. Klassen and G. F. Snyder;
1977) 205; Dunn, Romans 1.273. One can agree with Moo (Romans, 338 n. 39) that "original
death" requires a corresponding idea of "original sin." But it is the definition of "original sin"
which is the crux of the debate. As Dunn adds later,
"Paul could be said to hold a doctrine of
original sin in the sense that from the beginning everyone has been under the power of sin with
death as the consequence, but not a doctrine of original guilt, since individuals are only held
responsible for deliberate acts of defiance against God and his law" (Romans 1.291). The relation
of original sin in Paul and the rabbinic doctrine of the frh rcy, is here being left an open
question, except to say that the element of choice appears to figure in both (Gambier, "Péchés,"
60 See M. Stuart, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans (London: William Tegg, 1857)
206-7; Dunn, Romans 1.275-76; Schlier, Römerbrief, 160-61, who writes that this is death in the
sense of a]pw<leia and a]po<llusqai, the outworking of God's o]rgh< and the te<loj of sin (6:21).
Brandenburger, Adam, 165-67, adds that qa<natoj is man's radical lostness before God
(kata<krima), as is shown by the antithesis of qa<natoj-zwh> ai]w<nioj (vv. 12, 17, 21).
61 Moo, Romans, 331. Sanday/Headlam similarly describe sin as "a malignant force let
loose among mankind" (Romans, 132). For this reason, death is also depicted in tyrant-like
"Paul," Käsemann adds, "is not speaking primarily of act and punishment
but of ruling powers which implicate all people individually and every-
where determine reality as destiny."62 All this suggests that sin is far more
than guilt forensically considered; it is, in fact, a life-force of its own.
While individual acts of sin are the outgrowth of this a[marti<a, the con-
sistent use of the singular noun throughout Romans 5-8 intimates that Paul
looks upon sin as a unified and coherent whole;63 along with death and the
law, it stands for the old creation as that entity hostile to God and aligned
with evil. If, as seems to be the case, Paul distinguishes between "sin" and
"transgression," the latter is but the unavoidable consequence of the
former, "an inward disposition of rebellion against God rising out of ex-
altation of the self."64 To put it most pointedly, "sin" is apostasy. Paul,
therefore, can insist in 6:5-11 that the believer has died to sin, i.e., re-
nounced his former condition of rebellion: his orientation is now to the new
age and its ideals. This means, on the other hand, that the contrast between
chap. 6 and 7:14-25 is not as stark as has been imagined, because while one
can renounce in principle the values of the old life, those values still seek
to assert their dominance, thus setting up the conflict depicted in 7:14-25.
It is in this setting that h!marton, which focuses attention on human
activity subsequent to Adam, speaks of the race in its imitation of its fore-
bear,65 with the effect that death spread to all people, "taking hold of each
terms. See C. C. Black, "Pauline Perspectives on Death in Romans 5-8," JBL 103 (1984)
62 Käsemann, Romans, 150 (on v. 14). Cf. Gambier, "Péchés," 233-34; Brandenburger,
Adam, 160 et passim.
63 See Beker, Paul, 189-90. Moo points out that 5:12-8:13 contains 65 percent (42 of 64) of
Paul's usages of a[marti<a—and all are in the singular (Romans, 331). He further contends that
"sin" (in the singular) is composed of individual acts of sin; these, he says, are a principle or
network of sin, "which is so pervasive and dominant that the person's destiny is determined
by the those actions." I would want to say, rather, that the various actions, or "sins," are
determined by the "sin" which is Adam's rebellion. A person's actions, of course, have a
bearing on his destiny. Yet in Adam one's destiny has already been fixed, until, that is, one
is transferred into Christ.
64 C. K. Barrett, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans (HNTC; New York: Harper
& Row, 1957) 112.
65 "The distinction between the ‘one’ and the ‘all’ is matched by the distinction between
a[marti<a and h!marton. . . ." (Dunn, Romans 274). Reference is frequently made to 2 Apoc. Bar.
54.19: "Adam is, therefore, not the cause, except only for himself, but each of us has become
his own Adam." In context, the statement
does not have to be the choice of everyone. While death is inevitable because of his sin (v. 15),
judgment is not. Hence, individuals must decide for future glory so as to avoid the coming
torment (vv. 15-16); those who choose otherwise are the unrighteous, who do not love God's
law and refuse to be instructed by his creation (vv. 14, 17-18). Inasmuch as both this author
and Paul highlight human responsibility, there is a formal agreement between them. However,
any attempt to draw a direct parallel must take cognizance of one important qualification,
that in the latter the faithful and the wicked both reside within the community
Throughout the apocalypse the scribe speaks to the people and, e.g., in chaps. 41-42 he
confronts the issue of apostasy from the covenant. Hence, the ability to choose assumed by the
THE OBEDIENCE OF FAITH 105
individual man in turn, as the generations succeeded one another."66 This
is the sin whose essential traits return in every sin:67 "As poison once swal-
lowed penetrates to all parts of the body, so it happened in Adam, in whom
the whole race was virtually contained; in him the tendency to dissolution
victoriously asserted itself over all the individuals that were to come, so that
every one of them was born dying."68 It is in this sense that David confesses
that he was brought forth in iniquity and conceived in sin (Ps 51:5). Not
only so, the gravity of the human condition grows exponentially with the
birth of every new person into the world,69 beginning with Cain, whose
murder of his brother followed immediately upon his father's rebellion
It is in this all-embracive sense that death ei]j pa<ntaj a]nqrw<pouj
dih?lqen; it has permeated (
race in toto. Though it is true that several times in Romans 5 Paul calls our
attention to the one man through whom sin and death became realities,
there is reason to think that his concern is equally with the ko<smoj or the
people to whom death has penetrated.70 Wilckens calls attention to the fact
that v. 12 (vv. 18-19) does not mention Adam by name, from which he infers
that Paul's interest lies not so much in Adam personally as in his role of the
portal through which the world became the place of death's activity. That
is to say, Adam's sin is significant because it occasioned the demise of the
ko<smoj.71 Without, then, downplaying the repeated stress on the one man,
words "Adam is not the cause, except only for himself' is to be located within its covenant
context, as are similar statements in, e.g., Sir 1:26; 15:15; 21:11; Tob 4:5; Pss. Sol. 9.7; T. Ash.
1; 4 Macc 1:15; CD 3.3. Cf. Garlington, "Romans 7:14-25," 221 n. 105. In distinction, the
impression left by Paul is that Adam's descendants not only willingly imitate his example, they
are compelled to do so because they partake of a community of nature with him, including—
66 Cranfield, Romans 1.274.
67 Berkouwer, Sin, 274.
68 Godet, Romans, 206.
69 See Leenhardt, Romans, 143. Paul's own thought is remarkably similar to 4 Ezra 3.7-11,
20-27; 4.30; 7.118. L. Morris observes that Paul is not simply repeating a Jewish common-
place, since no other author goes as far as he. Nonetheless, these references show that his
position developed naturally from his Jewish background (The Epistle to the Romans [Grand
Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988] 230 n. 47). Cf. Wright, "Adam," 370. C. K. Barrett, From First Adam
to Last: A Study in Pauline Theology (London: A. & C. Black, 1962) 8-9, 14-15, deduces that the
common element between Paul and the various Jewish writers is the disastrous effects of
Adam's sin, which are ultimately cosmic in proportion. Cf. Scroggs, Adam, 17-20, 33-38;
Wedderburn, "Structure," 344-45.
70 On ko<smoj, see J. G. Gibbs, Creation
and Redemption: A Study in Pauline Theology
(NovTSup 26; Leiden: Brill, 1971) 51 n. 2; Garlington, "Romans 7:14-25," 226-27 n. 126.
71 Wilckens, Römer 1.315. Dunn calls Adam an "epochal figure," i.e., he is "the one who
initiated the first major phase of human history and thereby determined the character of that
phase for those belonging to it" (Romans 1.289). Cf. Barth, Shorter Commentary, 61; Ridderbos,
Romeinen, 112; A. J. M. Wedderburn, "Adam in Paul's Letter to the Romans," in Studia Biblica
1978. III. Papers on Paul and Other New Testament Authors (JSNTSup 3; ed. E. A. Livingston;
whose significance we shall explore below, it follows that the preposition dia<
should receive at least equal stress: it was through the one man that all have
been affected for ill. When in vv. 18-19 Paul returns to his original point,
it is this preposition which will serve to underscore the instrumental sig-
nificance of Christ for the new humanity's obedience and life.72
Thus far it has been intimated that within the cadre of the present
passage the terms "sin" and "disobedience" are to be regarded specifically
as apostasy. The basis for this assumption now needs to be clarified. In a
nutshell, not only is such a connotation appropriate because of the focus on
perseverance in Romans 5 but also because of several supporting consider-
ations: the precedent established by the earlier portion of Romans, Paul's
Jewish heritage, and parallels in other NT authors. To these we now turn.
That sin, which has opened the floodgates to death and destruction,
ought to be interpreted in the terms proposed is supported by Paul's use of
identical language earlier in the letter. According to Rom 2:12, one of the
things held in common by Jew and Gentile is sin: o!soi ga>r a]no<mwj
h!marton, a]no<mwj a]polou?ntai: kai> o!soi e]n no<m& h!marton, a]no<mwj
kriqh<sontai. The verb a[marta<nw here stands over against Adam's orig-
inal quest for glory, honor, and immortality, commensurate with his con-
tinued trust in the word of God and commitment to the person of his
Creator.73 "Sin," therefore, is apostasy or mankind's failure to attain to its
Rom 3:23 epitomizes the whole of human history with the words pa<ntej
h!marton kai> u[sterou?ntai th?j do<chj tou? qeou?. The phrase pa<ntej
h!marton, which is the precise combination of words found in 5:12, glances
back to 3:9: pa<nta u[f ] a[marti<an ei#nai, Paul's conclusion from the forego-
ing discussion of mankind's rebellion against God the Creator. In fact, 3:23
itself is a summary of 1:18-3:20, in which Adam/creation motifs occupied
a place of some prominence. With the willing compliance of the first man,
the agenda of creation was sabotaged by Satan, and all who bear Adam's
likeness continue his resistance to the Creator and thus fall perpetually
short of the divine image (note the present tense of u[sterou?ntai). Human-
progeny bear his image in that they are born in a condition of estrangement
from God (cf. Ps 51:5), with an inbuilt disposition to serve the creature
rather than the Creator. Hence, 3:23, as it distills the whole of 1:18-3:20,
sheds a considerable amount of light on 5:12, especially as the verse pro-
vides another point of contact with chap. 5, viz., the creation term "glory."
72 The same is true of 1 Cor 15:21. Stuart (Romans,
204) remarks that dia<, designates
the causa principalis, not the mere secondary, instrumental, or occasional cause. Note
how in vv. 18-19 di ] e[no<j is complemented by ei]j pa<ntaj and pa<ntaj a]nqrw<pouj,
who are made either sinners or righteous.
73 Garlington, "Obedience of Faith, II," esp. 56-61.
THE OBEDIENCE OF FAITH 107
That is to say, humanity's shortfall of the glory of God is its failure to be
the accurate image of God (Ps 8:5).74
Wedderburn maintains that this interpretation of a[marta<nw is supported
by the fact that Paul normally uses the verb with regard to responsible and
personal sinning, particularly in the Romans passages just cited, in which,
he remarks, "Paul's whole argument would be vitiated if any mouth were
not stopped by the consciousness of its own guilt before God."75 The clause
pa<ntej h!marton, therefore, in both cases is to be taken in the same sense,
i.e., death has spread to all because all have sinned, i.e., have apostatized, because
of their union with Adam. Thus interpreted, the aorist in each instance is
constative (summary) and is to be translated by the English present perfect tense.76
As to Paul's Jewish background, of obvious significance is Genesis 3's
account of the fall of Adam. Without going into any real detail, the heart
of the narrative is to the effect that "Adam endeavoured to set himself in
the place of God . . . and in that moment sin was born."77 Not content with
being God's image, he aspired to be as God himself. "Man was unwilling
to recognize a Lord; he chose to be Lord himself, and to glorify himself,"78
all because the Serpent "twisted the instruction of the Creator given for
man's good and made it sound like the legislation of a dictator fearful of
losing his special status and prerogatives. Thus deceived, man clutched at
a godlike life and grasped only death."79 From that point on, the Creator/
creature distinction was distorted, rendering Adam an idolater and a de-
fector from the covenantal bond established in the creation.80 Berkouwer,
then, justifiably writes that although the word fall does not does not occur
in Genesis 3, “sin is pictured as apostasy from God.”81
Moving briefly to postbiblical Judaism, we find that "sin" assumes pre-
cisely the meaning of apostasy in Sir 24:22: "Whoever obeys me will not be
74 On man as the glory-image of God, see Kline, Images, 13-43.
75 Wedderburn, "Structure," 351. He further remarks that a reference to individual guilt
makes the best sense in the light of Jewish parallels (ibid., 352). See the defense of this
interpretation of a[marta<nw and a[marti<a by Brandenburger, Adam, 175-76 (who passes on
other references, p. 175 n. 3); Stuart, Romans, 213-17, 220-27; Cambier, "Peches," 235-41. The
verb a[marta<nw is used of Adam's own personal sin in v. 16a, so that the sin of his posterity matches his own.
76 Cf. Cranfield, Romans 1.279; Cambier, "Péchés," 241; A. T. Robertson, A Grammar of the
Greek New Testament in
the Light of Historical Research (Nashville: Broadman,
contra Morris (Romans, 231), the aorist in 5:12 no more has to point to "one act in the past," i.e., the
sin of Adam, than in 2:12 and 3:23.
77 Barrett, Romans, 111. On the motif of Adam's idolatry in Rom 1:18-32, based on Genesis
3, see M. D. Hooker, "Adam in Romans I," NTS 6 (1959-60) 297-306; Dunn, Christology,
101-2; Barrett, Adam, 17-20; Wedderburn, "Adam," 413-19.
78 Barrett, Romans, 36-37 (on 1:21).
79 Dunn, Christology, 103.
80 See Garlington, "Romans 7:14-25," 207-10, and the literature cited, to which I would
add Berkouwer, Sin, 268-74.
81 Berkouwer, Sin, 268. Likewise
Calvin, Institutes 2.1.4; A.
Schlatter, Gottes Gerechtigkeit:
Ein Kommentar zum Römerbrief (Stuttgart: Calwer, 1935) 192.
put to shame, and those who work with my help will not sin." This is to be
compared with Sir 4:15-16 and 15:15:
He who obeys her will judge the nations,
and whoever gives heed to her will dwell secure.
If he has faith in her he will obtain her;
and his descendants will remain in possession of her.
If you will, you can keep the commandments,
and to act faithfully is a matter of your own choice.
In these several pronouncements, the scribe exhorts his students to obey
wisdom or the Torah. According to the immediate context of 4:15-16 (vv.
17-19), one is to give heed to wisdom because she is a tester of those who
come forward to serve the Lord (cf. Sir 2:1-6). The author here casts his
disciples in the role of
persevere in trials and confirm their confidence in wisdom, their guide and
disciplinarian.82 Sir 15:15 places in parallel keeping the commandments
and faithful action, which is not "legalistic" perfection but the disciple's
continued allegiance to his covenant commitment.83 It is in comparison
with these kindred statements that the saying of 24:22 makes sense: "Who-
ever obeys me will not be put to shame, and those who work with my help
[e]n e]moi<] will not sin." (Note how Ben Sira quite naturally associates two
of the most crucial terms of Rom 5:12-19, "obedience" and "sin.") In light
of the sage's encouragement to confess one's shortcomings (4:26), "sin"
cannot have reference to sinless perfection, and, because of the parallelismus
membrorum of the verse, "obey" likewise cannot mean anything approach-
ing this. Rather, wisdom's promise is that the obedient person will not sin
so as to forsake Yahweh and incur judgment (contrast 2 Apoc. Bar. 54.22, in
context). This was particularly relevant for Ben Sira, given the incipient
Hellenistic encroachments on Israelite religion and culture in his day.84
Compatible with the perspective of Ben Sira is the claim of the Wisdom
of Solomon that "We will not sin, because we know that we are accounted
tion is idolatry or apostasy. By way of parallel, Wis 14:29-31 is especially
relevant. The writer condemns those who trust in lifeless idols, devote them-
selves to, i.e., obey (prose<xw) them, and, consequently, have contempt for
the holiness of God's covenant. Accordingly, there is a "just penalty for
those who sin." Therefore, a[marta<nw assumes in this setting the specific
connotation of abandonment of Yahweh in favor of a pagan lifestyle. But,
for the writer, because believers are accounted God's, their perseverance is
assured. In terms of
82 I have treated the text in Obedience, 26-28.
83 See further ibid., 31-33.
84 See ibid., 15-19, and the other literature cited.
THE OBEDIENCE OF FAITH 109
which is the root of their immortality, as opposed to idols, which have no
power to confer eternal life. This reading of "sin" in the passage is but-
tressed by the motif of the testing of the righteous sons of God which
permeates the book of Wisdom.85
In view of the above texts, the statement of Pr Man 8 is perfectly corn-
prehensible: "Thou therefore, O Lord, that art the God of the just, hast not
appointed repentance to the just, to Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, who
have not sinned against thee; but thou hast appointed repentance to me
that am a sinner." A casual reading would suggest that the author is attrib-
idolatry." The Prayer places this confession in the mouth of Manasseh, one
of the most wicked of the Israelite kings, who made his children pass
through the fire of idolatrous sacrifice. So, for this author repentance has
been appointed even for the worst kind of sinner, the idolater and the
apostate. The "just," by contrast, do not need repentance in the sense
intended, because they have never forsaken the covenant. Cf. Pss. Sol. 17:36
and T. Jud. 24:1, which predicate "sin"-lessness of the Messiah.
Such a meaning of "sin" is also in evidence in NT authors other than
Paul. The Epistle to the Hebrews warns its readers, "If we sin deliberately
after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sac-
rifice for sins" (Heb 10:26). The adverb "deliberately" or "willingly"
(e[kousi<wj), as H. W. Attridge comments, reflects the Pentateuchal dis-
tinction between high-handed and inadvertent sins, which, he says, was
widely recognized in postbiblical Judaism. "As the sequel indicates, our
author has in mind a specific willful sin, that of apostasy."86 It goes without
saying that the burden of the entire letter is perseverance.
1 John 3:4-9 equates sin with lawlessness (a]nomi<a). The concept of law-
lessness is one which, in Jewish history and literature, comes into promi-
nence during the Greek persecution and Maccabean revolt of the second
century BC. To make a long story very short, the lawless (a@nomoi and
para<nomoi) correspond to the "Sons of Belial," who, according to Deuter-
onomy 13, arose from the people to induce them to worship foreign gods.
Lawlessness, in other words, was apostasy.87 John's own equation of sin as
lawlessness fits very easily into this category, so that the a]nomi<a which is
a[marti<a, and vice versa (both subject and predicate are preceded by an
article), is not to be reduced to individual infractions of God's law; it is,
rather, the abandonment of God himself This is why John can identify the one
who sins with the Devil, who "has sinned from the beginning" (v. 8). The
apostate, in other words, bears the image of the one responsible for man-
kind's primal falling away in the Garden of Eden.
85 See ibid., 74-79, 84-86.
86 H. W. Attridge, The Epistle to the Hebrews (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1989) 292. Cf. Dunn,
87 See Garlingtion, Obedience, 91-102 et passim.
Stephen Smalley confirms that elsewhere in the NT lawlessness bears a
technical meaning and can serve as a description of the "Satan-inspired
rejection of God and his law that will be manifest in the present age and
will come to a climax before Christ's second coming." "It implies," conse-
quently, "not merely breaking God's law, but flagrantly opposing him (in
Satanic fashion) by so doing."88 I. H.
thus to place oneself on the side of the Devil and the Antichrist and to stand
in opposition to Christ." He argues that this understanding of "lawlessless"
is in keeping with John's earlier teaching on the presence of the Antichrist
in the world. "One cannot hope for the appearing of Christ and at the same
time persist in the sin which signifies rebellion against him. Sin is not a
matter of isolated peccadillos: it is an expression of siding with God's ul-
timate enemy—the Devil (vv. 8-10)."89 It is in this specific sense that John
can affirm that anyone born of God does not "sin," i.e., apostatize (1 John
5:18): he is kept by Christ, and the evil one does not touch him. But because
temptations to apostasy are always present, John feels compelled to remind
his readers to keep themselves from idols (5:21), particularly as there is such
a thing as a sin which is "unto death" (5:16), i.e., apostasy.90
In encouraging his fellow Christians to persevere through the fiery trial
to which they have been called, Peter places before them the example of
Christ, who did not sin and on whose lips no deceit was found (1 Pet 2:22).
The words o!j a[marti<an ou]k e]poi<hsen ou]de> eu[re<qh do<loj e]n t&? sto<mati
au]tou? are quoted from the LXX of Isa 53:9, except that a[marti<an is sub-
stituted for a]nomi<an. For Isaiah, a]nomi<a (smH) is significant because of the
bitter irony involved in the treatment the Servant of Yahweh: he is to be cut
off from the people as an apostate from the covenant, although, in fact, he
was not guilty of such "lawlessness." Peter's perspective is the same: he
would have his readers understand that Jesus, even in the face of abusive
speech insinuating his guilt (v. 23), did not repay evil with evil; rather he
continued to entrust himself to the one who judges righteously and finally
finished his course.
The change of a]nomi<a to a[marti<a in the quotation may be accounted for
by its second clause. The first man on whose lips deceit was found was
Adam, who sought to cover his sin (cf. Prov 28:13) by blaming his disobe-
dience immediately on his wife and ultimately on God (Gen 3:12). For
Isaiah, the Servant's refusal to commit a]nomi<a is the reverse of Adam's
apostasy and attempted cover-up. Again Peter's concern is the same as the
prophet's; but in substituting "sin" for "lawlessness," he draws on a synon-
ymous term (as evidenced by John's usage) which places it beyond doubt
th?j a]nomi<<aj (2 Thess 2:3) may be an allusion to Adam, the first man associated with a]nomi<a
or apostasy (Barrett, Adam, 14). It is particularly striking that the same verse connects this man
with h[ a]postasi<a.
90 See Smalley, 1 John, 297-98.
THE OBEDIENCE OF FAITH 111
that, unlike Adam, Christ did not forsake his Father and then resort to
deceit to excuse his rebellion.
In light of these data, the assertion of 1 Pet 2:22 is not a generalized or
abstract statement of the sinlessness of Christ: it is an assurance that the
believer can endure in the midst of persecution, because his Lord, the one
who refused to repeat the infidelity of Adam, "did not sin." In his own way,
Peter, as Paul, represents Christ as another Adam, who succeeds where his
Apart from "sin," "disobedience" frequently in the OT and usually in
intertestamental literature is tantamount to apostasy. The materials are too
massive even to begin to canvass. I can only relate the conclusion drawn
from a previous study of the Jewish materials:91 whereas obedience is a
commitment to God's covenant as articulated by the law of Moses, dis-
obedience is apostasy from the covenant and the God of the covenant. The
same connotation is brought over in the NT in Heb 3:18-19, where "those
who were disobedient" were unable to enter the land because of unbelief It
is the disobedience (= unbelief) of the first wilderness generation which in
Hebrews is juxtaposed to the obedience of Christ (e.g., 5:8) and the obe-
dience to which its readers are called (e.g., 3:7-19).
In keeping with these examples in Romans and in Jewish and Christian
sources, which have to do directly with ideas associated with the train of
thought in Romans 5, I would suggest that a pattern within the letter is
observable. Rom 1:18-3:20 is Paul's indictment of the "sin" of the human
race, depicted in Adam-like terms. Rom 3:23 (preceded by 3:9) summarizes
the entire first portion of the letter with its declaration that "all have sinned
and fall short of the glory of God. Rom 5:1-11 similarly epitomizes the
"sin" of man outside Christ with the terms "ungodly," "sinners," "ene-
mies," and "wrath." Rom 5:12-19 then builds upon the foundation laid in
the earlier chapters by making explicit what was more or less implicit
before; that is, the human race's estrangement from God the Creator is
traceable back to the first human being, Adam, whose "sin" and "dis-
obedience" plunged the world into grief. All this sets the stage for Paul's
presentation of another Adam, who by his "righteousness" and "obedi-
ence" rectifies the apostasy of his predecessor and its consequences on his
race: the divine program for man which broke down with Adam is to be run
through again, this time in the person of Jesus.92
Finally, in our consideration of Rom 5:12, there is the scope of "all" in
Paul's assertion that pa<ntej h!marton. It is often charged that the above
interpretation fails to reckon with the reality of infant mortality, especially
in light of the statement of v. 14 that death reigned from Adam to Moses,
even over those who did not sin in the likeness of Adam's trespass. Suffice
it to say that the objection overlooks the phenomenon that pa<ntej in
91 Garlington, Obedience, passim.
92 Dunn, Christology, 111.
5:12-19 has primary reference to Jew and Gentile without distinction, in
keeping with the other occurrences of "all" in Romans. Likewise in 3:23,
the same "all" who have fallen short of God's glory are justified by God's
grace (3:24). In both 3:23 and 5:12 pa<ntej is ethnically qualitative, not quan-
titative: Paul's argument is
and repeats his sin. As such, the fate of infants (and the mentally deficient)
simply does not fall within his horizon,93 although it is true the tragedy of
infant mortality does relate to the Adam/humanity solidarity as actually
developed by Paul: infants die because they are "in Adam" (1 Cor 15:22)
and, therefore, inherit the legacy left by him—death.
(to be continued)
93 Cf. Calvin, Romans, 113; Stuart, Romans, 215-16; Godet, Romans, 207; Cranfield,
339; Moo, Romans, 339 (n. 40), 343;
Dunn, Romans 1.276; J. Denny, "
Epistle to the Romans," in The Expositor's Greek New Testament (repr.
1970) 2.627; Kaylor, Community, 110; Wedderburn, "Structure," 351; Cambier, "Péchés," 253.
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