(Article for publication week of 8-22-2012 AD)
“For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous” (Romans 5:19).
It was by the disobedience of one man, Adam, that the entire human race was declared as sinners by God the Judge of all the earth. God imputed the sin of Adam to all his posterity because Adam was the federal head of the human race. Death reigns over all men, even though they had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression (Romans 5:14). Since all men are under the penalty of death for Adam’s transgression, it must be that they are counted as sinners by imputation. To be sure, all men are natural and practicing sinners, but all stand condemned in Adam, and that justly, for we are all in Adam seminally and representatively. All of us were involved in the Adamic Fall, and are implicated in the First Transgression. The “many” of the first clause of our text is the entire human race. God declared you were a sinner even before you were conceived because you belong to a fallen race, that is the race of Adam.
But glory be to God! He did not leave the whole human race in this fallen condition! According to His sovereign grace, God imputed the obedience of His Son to His elect people (the “many” of the second clause). Many (but not all) are saved by the obedience of Christ.
Your best obedience “dares not appear” (Isaac Watts) before God’s throne. But the obedience of Christ can and does stand before God without flaw. The Lord Jesus Christ obeyed the law of God perfectly and completely. He kept the law of God to a “jot and a tittle”. He kept the First Table of the law perfectly by loving God with all His being. He kept the Second Table of the Law perfectly by truly loving His neighbour as Himself. Christ kept the Ten Commandments in deed, thought and motive. He answered all the just demands of the Law by undergoing its full penalty. This active obedience of Christ is imputed to the believer in Christ (again, the “many” of the second clause). The believer in Christ is made, that is constituted righteous by the obedience of the Lord Jesus Christ (the “one” of the second clause of out text this week).
The righteousness spoken of in our text can only be the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, for Christ is the only Man Who has ever truly obeyed God. His obedience is counted as righteousness for the elect sinner.
Now, perhaps some trembling soul is thinking, “am I one of the “many” who are made righteous by the obedience of Christ?” We can only point you to Christ for the answer to that question. Be sure the soul who quits his own righteousness, and trusts in Christ Alone for His whole and sole righteousness is among the “many” for whom Christ obeyed God and worked out a true righteousness.
It is by the obedience of Christ Alone that you are found righteous before God. It is not a matter of your imperfect obedience mixed with the perfect obedience of Christ, but it is by the obedience of ONE! I pray the Lord will bless you to believe that right now.