The Debbie Downer theologians concerning Romans 5:18 & 19


[size=150]Dear Friends in Faith, I was in a used bookstore in the town near where I live. I always gravitate to the “Religion” section. This time, my eyes caught a book concerning a commentary on
the New Testament entitled “The Abingdon Bible Commentary .” I was curious
what the writer had to say relating to Romans 5:18 & 19. Would the theologian
have some good news to say about this truly incredible good news Paul was
bringing out in the evangel? It always amazes me how these theologians are so well trained to be a type of Debbie Downer. In case some of you don’t know about Debbie Downer, she is
a character on Saturday Night Live. For instance, she might go to dinner with
her friends and as they are discussing their dinner and how wonderful it is, she
always has something negative to say. For instance, someone may remark on how
great a certain food was. She will then remark about how something in that food
causes cancer. She is the proverbial party pooper. Always, after she makes a negative
comment, her friends are disgusted that she just ruined their outing and you
hear a loud “Debbie Downer!” Then the camera pans to her face which looks like
“I was only trying to help.”

Anyway, getting back to the topic at hand, I opened up this theological work
which was put out in order to help all of us understand the Bible. But the result of
many of these works reveal to us that the Bible is not really to be taken at face value,
especially the good news Paul brought to the nations. These theologians want the
reader to think that what they have to say is what Paul was actually intending us to
know. What we often get, however, is the regurgitated slop spewing from their pens
which is what they were taught in their respective seminary or Bible college. It is
not that they rarely have anything good to say pertaining to the evangel. It is just
that they have a penchant for turning what is really good news into really bad news.
Here is the passage:
“Consequently then, as it is through one offense for all mankind for condemnation,
thus also it is through one righteous response for all mankind for life’s justifying.
For even as through the disobedience of the one human the many are constituted
sinners, thus also through the obedience of the One the many shall be constituted
righteous” (Romans 5:18,19).

This is what the theologian remarked on this passage:
“The transgression of Adam is now clearly defined as his disobedience, and the
righteous act of Christ as his obedience; and the results in both cases are that the
rest of men receive a certain status, in the one case the status of sinners, and in
the other case the status of righteous. The image is wholly forensic. If we may not
say that the ideas of personal moral guilt and of personal moral righteousness are
absent, they are at least far in the background. Paul is thinking of the relation of
men to God in terms of a status into which they had been introduced, in the one
case by the transgression of Adam, in the other by Christ’s great act of obedience,
but in both cases the status is something to be voluntarily accepted.”

Notice, the first Debbie Downer remark the theologian used is the term “forensic.”
He is trying to tell us that what mankind get from what Adam and Christ did
is merely forensic or a legal fiction. That is what “forensic” theologically implies.
Mankind was not literally, actually constituted sinners nor condemned to a dying
condition due to what Adam did. No! They think mankind dies because he sins.
Mankind is condemned because of what mankind does, not because of what Adam
did. After all, that would be too unfair for us to be constituted a sinner and condemned
due to what someone else did! Likewise, Mankind will not be constituted
righteous and have their lives justified due to what Christ did. That would be equally
unfair according to the theologian! It just comes down to a legal fiction.

The second “Debbie Downer” remark is this: “but in both cases the status is
something to be voluntarily accepted.” In other words, one has to voluntarily accept
that what Adam did will cause death to enter into you and thus make you a sinner.
Likewise, one must voluntarily accept what Christ did to cause you to be righteous
and have your life justified!

Here is something A. E. Knoch wrote in Unsearchable Riches, volume 82:

“Adam is a type of Christ (Rom.5:14). Let us meditate for a time upon this type as
it is developed in Romans 5. Even a fleeting glance will show that sin’s reach was universal;
every human being was affected by it. Is the reach of Christ’s work universal
also? As the best of our English versions mar the exquisite poise and balance of this
comparison as it stands in the inspired original, we will call to our aid a concordant
translation, arranging the lines so as to clearly display the corresponding features.”

ADAM’S ACT . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . CHRIST’S ACT (Rom.5:18)
Consequently, then,
as it was . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . thus also it is
. .through one offense . . . . . . . . . . . .through one righteous response
. . . for all mankind . . . . . . . . . . . . . . for all mankind
. . . . for condemnation, . . . . . . . . . . . . for life’s justifying.

“Sin fixes its fangs firmly on every one of Adam’s sons. There is no escape for
anyone. Sin is not evil theoretical, but actual and practical. It is not presented as
a matter of choice. It is powerful and sovereign. The grand proof of this is death.
Death entered through sin and claims every single son of Adam. These universal
results have come through a single offense. As Adam affected All Mankind thus
also is Christ’s Work for All.” (end of quote from Knoch)

All mankind are neutral recipients of the result of Adam’s one act. By Paul using the
construction “thus also,” he is telling us that all mankind likewise are neutral recipients
of Christ’s one act of obedience. All mankind were made sinners due to Adam’s one act.
All mankind will be made righteous due to Christ’s one act.
In His Grace and Peace,
Tony Nungesser
Saviour of All Fellowship[/size]



To be fair, Paul does say a few verses later that the gift has to be accepted – so I know where they’re getting that idea – but that doesn’t mean some people will never accept the gift! The gist of Paul’s surrounding verses would indicate everyone accepts the gift eventually.

Also, Paul nowhere at any time says that Adam’s corruption is something that one has to accept to need God’s salvation from it. That’s going straight into Pelagianism: “If I don’t accept Adam’s corruption, I don’t need God’s salvation.”

Out of curiosity, was the commentary Calv or Arm? Either one might take the forensic route, but I usually think of forensic issues being Calv, and “Abingdon” being Scottish and therefore more likely to be Calv.

One might suppose the explanation itself seems Arm, but from long experience I’ve occasionally found Calvs temporarily going Arm and Arms temporarily going Calv when the logical implications of either become too inconvenient. (Which is related to Calvs and Arms switching more permanently either way when the logical implications either way become too inconvenient.)


Thank you Jason for your very good remarks.
I’m not sure what you mean by a few verses later. Here are the verses after 5:18,19:

Yet law came in by the way, that the offense should be increasing. Yet where sin increases, grace superexceeds, that, even as Sin reigns in death, thus Grace also should be reigning through righteousness, for life eonian, through Jesus Christ, our Lord" (Rom 5:20-21).

The commentary is, I believe, from the Methodist persuasion.

Here is the prior verse to Romans 5:18,19:
Rom 5:17 For if, by the offense of the one, death reigns through the one, much rather, those obtaining the superabundance of grace and the gratuity of righteousness shall be reigning in life through the One, Jesus Christ."

This is what the Concordant Commentary has to say on 5:17:
17 Adam enthroned death, but Christ gives believers not only a full vindication from all guilt, but life and the right to reign with Him.

Paul is not saying all mankind have to receive a gift. It is just that here, in verse 17, he is telling us that those who actually do obtain (not by their own efforts the superabundance of grace) will actually reign in life through Jesus Christ. Now it is to be questioned if Paul meant such ones would reign in this present life or be reigning through Christ in the oncoming eons or both. I believe we believers, in this present life, can, in a sense, reign with Christ at least in our deportment among our acquaintances and those outside. And then, in the oncoming eons, we literally will reign when Christ. How wonderful to look forward to that august day!

Then Paul switches gears and reveals the solution to the problem of Romans 5:12 in 5:18,19 which deals with all mankind.

At least that is my take on this.
Paul is the only one in human history to be given the understanding by the risen Christ how God is going to make it all good for all mankind and indeed the entire universe.


Good insights there, fellas.

For those interested in reading more on this topic (Romans 5:18-19), i’d suggest:

Tom Talbott on " ST. PAUL’S UNIVERSALISM" … albott.pdf

“Potentially justified? Paul, Wolter, universalism and Romans 5:18” … alism.html


Tom Talbott & Jason Pratt comment on our topic again here, especially regarding v.17 of the context:

“Does Rom 5:17 restrict the ‘all men’ in Rom 5:18?”

This thread contains two very long downloadable scholarly articles supporting UR in Romans 5, by Elliot Swatto & Richard H. Bell:

“My Dissertation on Universalism in Romans 5:12-19…” … =14&t=5947


Rom 5:18 Consequently, then, as it was through one offense for all mankind for condemnation, thus also it is through one just act for all mankind for life’s justifying."

Rom 5:19 For even as, through the disobedience of the one man, the many were constituted sinners, thus also, through the obedience of the One, the many shall be constituted just."

Paul makes a parallel between “the many” who were condemned & sinners and those who will be justified & constituted just.

“In Romans 5, the justification is co-extensive with the condemnation. Since all share in one, all share in the other. If only a certain portion of the human race had partaken of the sin of Adam, only a certain portion would partake of the justification of Christ. But St. Paul affirms all to have been involved in one, and all to be included in the other.”

Therefore there is salvation after death. And corrective punishment.

Jesus shall see of the travail of His soul & be satisfied. Not satisfied a little bit, but the vast majority fried alive forever.

“He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.” (Isa.53:11).

For how “many” (not few) did He “bear their iniquities”? All.