Saviour of All Fellowship

Romans 5:18

Will all humanity enjoy justification?

Does Romans 5:18 teach that all of humanity will enjoy justification as the outcome of the righteous work of Jesus Christ?

H.A.W. Meyer points out that both occurrences of “All Mankind” in Romans 5:18 mean “simply all men, as in ver.12” (Critical and Exegetical Hand-Book to Romans, 1883, p.216).

John Murray writes, “The righteousness and the justification with which verse 18 deals can be nothing less than those which issue in everlasting life . . .” (THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS 1960, p.203

But Murray claims that the “all mankind” of the second half of verse 18 is not the same as the “all mankind" in the first half.” “. . . in Rom. 5:18 we may and must recognize a restriction in the Ďall mení of the apodosis [the second half] that is not present in the Ďall mení of the protasis [the first half]” (p.203). Hence Murray teaches that the effect of Christís righteous work is less than the effect of Adam's trespass.

Meyer, on the other hand, disagrees with Murray regarding the meaning of “justification of life.” He explains: “On the part of God, [Christís righteous act] has come to justification for all; thus the case stands objectively; the subjective attainment of this universal justification, the realization of it for individuals, depends upon whether the latter believingly apprehend the [righteous act] for their own subjective [justification]” (p.216). In other words, Meyer sees the results of Christís as universal only in an “objective” sense, referring to something that God has done but actually will never be realized subjectively by all mankind.

Murray will have none of Meyer's qualifying of the certainty and blessedness of the justification gained by Christ. “It is the justification that takes account of . . . multitudinous trespasses . . . (vs.16)” (p.202). And Meyer will not have any such qualifying of the second all mankind as Murray and others have attempted, and he describes such attempts as being “purely fanciful” (p.216).

In his book attempting to refute universalism, Ajith Fernando notes the conflict between these two interpretations of Romans 5:18 and decides to take Murrayís position (A UNIVERSAL HOMCOMING, 1983, p.80-85).

This preserves the revelation of victory and glory in the divine achievement of justification. But it makes Paulís reference to “all mankind” in verses 12 and 18 puzzling at best, and rather embarrassing. Didn't Paul realize that his wording would suggest that Christís righteous act would affect the same number of people that Adamís offense affected? If the number of people blessed by Christís work is less than the number of people hurt by Adamís trespass, why should Paul use the word “all” in both points of comparison between Adam and Christ?

It is decidedly dishonoring to Christ to suggest, on one hand, that His undoing of Adamís offense is only partial in the extent of itís effects on humanity, or, on the other hand, only a matter of possibility resting on the correct response of sinners. It is not that present day Bible teachers and Evangelical scholars, as a whole, would not consider the teaching of racewide justification good news. I suspect and hope that most of them would be glad to believe it and even teach it. But because they haave taken the position, for one reason or another, that it is not true, they are unable to take a clearly evangelical passage such as Romans 5:12-21 and rejoice in all its good and blessed revelations which are to the glory of God. This is not only sad, it is very harmful to the spirit of open Bible study and growth in faith.

Dean Hough

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