The Evangelical Universalist Forum

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.

"The closing verses of Romans 5 have been the standing perplexity of theologians.

"Yet nowhere has the Holy Spirit written for our learning plainer conclusions, and never has tradition been blinder than in the treatment of this magnificent passage. Believe the passage as it stands, and the divine logic is irresistible.

"It contains a comparison between the first and the last Adam. What the first Adam was, and is, to the whole human race, the last Adam is, and will be also, to the whole human race.

"This is the simple and grand logic of verses 18 and 19. “Therefore as by the offence of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation, EVEN SO by the righteousness of One, the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.” Then there follows a reiteration of the comparison with its Divine logic, so that the fact might be stated again, not only as a climax in the purpose of redemption, but as a future goal in the history of the working out of the redemption of all men. “For as by one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall the many be made righteous.” The insertion of the definite article, which the Authorized Version unwarrantably leaves out before the word “many” in each case, emphasizes the fact for which it was originally placed there, viz.-- that the company of the righteous is identical in person and number with the company of the sinners to which the passage refers.

“So that we have two phrases in these two verses, by which we can establish beyond question the identity of those under discussion. These two phrases are “ALL MEN,” and “THE MANY.” Of this company it is declared in the first place, that “all men” and “the many” were made sinners and come into condemnation; and in the second place, that “all men” and “the many” will be made righteous, not simply saved but made righteous. If this plain simple language-- and God could not have made it plainer-- does not mean what it says, but infers something quite the opposite, so that the comparison used is not a true one, then we may well pause to ask how ever it came about that on such a subject, and at such a climax in his argument, Paul did not tell us exactly what he meant. -A.E. Saxby-”

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.

I assume the phrase “the many” there (in both of its occurrences) does not include “all” humanity, for Jesus Christ is excluded. Is that why it doesn’t say “the all” instead of “the many”?

“Paul declares, however, that the effects of Christ’s obedience are far greater for mankind than the effect of Adam’s fall. For the third (5:15) and fourth (5:17) times in this chapter he makes explicit use of the ‘qal wahomer’ (“from minor to major”) form of argument that is commonly used in rabbinic literature, expressed by “much more”…cf. earlier use at 5:9,10…And as in the case of the typology previously used (5:14), here, too, the form of the argument is antithetical. The grace of God extended to humanity in the event of Christ’s death has abounded “for the many” (5:15b), which corresponds to the “all” of 5:12,18. The free gift given by God in Christ more than matches the sin of Adam and its effects; it exceeds it…”

“The universality of grace in Christ is shown to surpass the universality of sin. Christ’s “act of righteousness” is the opposite of Adam’s “tresspass” and equivalent to Christ’s “obedience”, which was fulfilled in his being obedient unto death (Phil 2:8). The results of Christ’s righteous action and obedience are “justification resulting in life for all persons”…5:18…and “righteousness” for “many” (5:19). The term “many” in 5:19 is equivalent to “all persons”, and that is so for four reasons: (1) the parallel in 5:18 speaks in its favor; (2) even as within 5:19 itself, “many were made sinners” applies to all mankind, so “many will be made righteous” applies to all; (3) the same parallelism appears in 5:15, at which “many” refers to “all”; and (4) the phrase “for many” is a Semitism which means “all”, as in Deutero-Isaiah 52:14; 53:11-12; Mark…10:45; 14:24; Heb.12:15. The background for Paul’s expression is set forth in Deutero-Isaiah, where it is said that “the righteous one”…the Lord’s servant, shall make “many” to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their sins …Isa.53:11…”

“It is significant, and even astounding, that justification is here said to be world-embracing. Nothing is said about faith as a prerequisite for justification to be effective, nor about faith’s accepting it.”

(Paul’s Letter To The Romans: A Commentary, Arland J. Hultgren, Eerdmans, 2011, 804 pg, p.227, 229)

That book was recommended by koine_lingua & is referred to by Tom Talbott in his extensive comments on Romans 5:12-21, here:

"Contrasts are also seen in the results of the work of each. Adam’s trespass or disobedience has brought condemnation (κατάκριμα, 5:18); through his act many were made sinners (5:19). Christ’s “act of righteousness” results in “justification of life” (δικαίωσιν ζωῆς) for all (5:18). The term δικαίωσιν can be translated as “justification” (NIV, NRSV; but RSV has “acquittal”) - the opposite of “condemnation”. The word ζωῆς (“of life”) is a genitive of result, providing the outcome of justification, so that the phrase may be rendered “justification resulting in life”. 108

  1. BDAG 250 (δικαίωσιν): “acquittal that brings life”. The construction is variously called a “genitive of apposition”, an “epexegetical genitive” or “genitive of purpose”. Cf. BDF 92 (S166). The meaning is the same in each case: justification which brings life."

(Paul’s Letter To The Romans: A Commentary, Arland J. Hultgren, Eerdmans, 2011, 804 pg, p.229)

18 So, then, just as by one transgression unto condemnation for all human beings, so also by one act of righteousness unto rectification of life for all human beings;
19 For, just as by the heedlessness of the one man many were rendered sinners, so also by the obedience of the one the many will be rendered righteous.s

“s. The use of the definite article here and elsewhere must be scrupulously observed, in keeping with the traditional way of formulating the distinction between the unique singular and the comprehensive plural in Greek (which a language without articles, like Latin, cannot reflect): not, that is, “one” (in the sense of “someone”), but “the one” (in the sense of the unique and irreplaceable, an irreducible singular) and “the many” (in the sense of all and everyone, the indivisible totality of all particulars). As in the prior verse, the proportion uniting both halves of the formulation is that of a particular and the universal, both in sin and in salvation.”

(The New Testament: A Translation, David Bentley Hart, 2017, p.297-298)

From is the following:

The word “all” occurs twice in parallel in Roman 5:18. The words “the many” occur twice in parallel in Romans 5:19:

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."

How “many” humans does the “all” of v.18a & v.18b include, Jerry? All of them (as in 100%), or “many” of them (as in less than 100%)? Do you think that “all” in v.18 refers to 100% of humanity or “many” of humanity?

Does “all” in verse 18 include Jesus?
Does “all” in verse 18 includes unborn babies?
Does “all” in verse 18 exclude any other humans?

Does “all” in v.18a refer to the exact same “many” humans as “all” in v.18b?

Does “all” in v.18a include exactly the same number of (& the very same) “many” humans as “many” in v.19a? Does “all” (v.18a) equal “many” (v.19a)?

Does “all” in “all have sinned & come short of the glory of God” (Rom.3:23) include 100% of humans, including Jesus & babies, or “many” humans?

Then, by the same reasoning, the “parallel” in Rom.5:19 proves Scriptural universalism to be true:

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."