Study of Romans 5:12-21

Death in Adam, Life in Christ

Rom 5:12  Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned— 
Rom 5:13  for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 
Rom 5:14  Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. 
Rom 5:15  But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. 
Rom 5:16  The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification. 
Rom 5:17  For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. 
Rom 5:18  So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. 
Rom 5:19  For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous. 
Rom 5:20  The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 
Rom 5:21  so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. 

v12 – Up to this point when discussing our need for a savior, he had not mentioned Adam, the first man, and the one through whom sin was introduced into the world. Now, many people, including some Christians, do not believe that Adam and Eve were real people. They tend to think of this story as a myth or allegory. Paul never thought this way. He is very definitive in stating that through one man sin entered the world, and because of this, death as well. He does not mention his name in this verse, but in verse 14 he does. Jesus also believed the creation of Adam and Eve as the first people was not a myth. “And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE, and said, ‘FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH’?  So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” Mat 19:4-6 So, just as through one man, Adam, sin entered the world, and because of this sin, death also came through this sin. If man had not sinned, he would not have died. However, sin carries with it death and this death was passed through mankind because all men have sinned. “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” Rom 3:23 Death passes to all who sin because “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

v13-14 – All men sinned. Sin was in the world before the law was given. This is very apparent. Look at Adam and Eve as well as the pre-flood society. Even immediately after the flood there was sin. However, since there is no law, sin was not imputed to men. Imputed here means not laid to their charge. In other words, their sin was not laid to their charge. Sin here is the violation of a divine law in thought or in deed. So, if there was no law given at this time and there was sin, there had to be another law. Let us look at what Paul said in chapter 2. This is in reference to the Gentiles who were not under the law, so it fits here as well. “For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them,” Rom 2:14-15. There is a law written in our hearts. This is the law they were under and they disobeyed that law and thus were sinners. Death reigned from Adam to Moses, therefore the law that was broken before the Mosaic Law was the law written on their hearts. Lastly, Paul says that Adam was a type of the one to come. What I believe is meant here is that since by Adam’s transgression all men died, by Jesus’ resurrection from the dead all men shall be made alive. “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.” 1 Cor 15:22.

v15-17 – There are two historical acts stated in these verses. First, by the historical act of Adam, all mankind became sinners and ultimately died. And second, by the historical act of Jesus, all mankind who are lost can be raised up. We look at so many things in history, such as walking on the moon or the fall of Rome. However, their impact pales in comparison to the two mentioned above. For walking on the moon and the fall of Rome have a transient affect on our lives. However, what Christ did through His death, burial and resurrection has an eternal affect. So lets look at the three comparisons found in these verses. First, the free gift is not like the transgression. By the one man’s transgression many died. Transgression is sin or misdeed. However, by one man’s death through grace, many received new life. The difference is all die -vs- many live. In the next verse says, the free gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned, specifically condemnation. By one transgression judgement arose and many were condemned, however, the free gift came on account of many transgressions resulting in justification. The difference is one transgression – condemnation, one free gift – justification. And lastly, by the transgression of one death reigned through the act of Adam, and by the grace of one, God, the gift of righteousness reigns through the act of Jesus. The difference is death reigned due to the act of Adam – the gift of righteousness reigned due to the act of Jesus.

v18-19 – Putting it succinctly, one sin brought condemnation, one act of righteousness brought justification. This is the clearest distinction between Adam and Christ. And the last comparison, By one man’s sin, all became sinners and by one man’s obedience many will be made / declared righteous.

v20-21 – What Paul is saying is that when the Law came, man became aware of their sin. And when they became aware of what was sin, it increased. This is what the Law is for. “because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.” Rom 3:20. Paul says in a later chapter, “What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, “YOU SHALL NOT COVET. But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead. I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died; and this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me; for sin, taking an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me.” Rom 7:7-11. Also according to these verses, the Law also brought to the surface desires for doing that which the Law said not to do. Therefore, focusing on the comparisons again, as sin reigned in death, grace would reign through righteousness resulting in eternal life through Christ.

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