Romans 5:12-21

Wednesday Evening Bible Study

December 30, 1998


We have seen Paul present the case that man is not made right before God through his own deeds or the keeping of the law, but simply through faith. Our salvation is not a matter of something weíve earned, it is a "grace", a free, undeserved, gift from God. All we do is trust Him to receive it.

Paul is now going to give us a comparison between Adam and Jesus, between what has come upon the human race through one manís disobedience versus what has been given to man through one manís obedience.

:12-21 Adam and Jesus

:12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:

all have sinned Ė better translation, "all sinned".

Paul is saying that when Adam sinned, he sinned not just for his own sake, but on behalf of us all. There are things in which our president acts on behalf of the entire nation, as our representative. Adam sinned as a "federal head", and so because he sinned, we sinned.

Warren Wiersbe writes,

Skeptics sometimes ask, "Was it fair for God to condemn the whole world just because of one manís disobedience?" The answer, of course, is that it was not only fair; but it was also wise and gracious. To begin with, if God had tested each human being individually, the result would have been the same: disobedience. But even more important, by condemning the human race through one man (Adam), God was then able to save the human race through one Man (Jesus Christ)! Each of us is racially united to Adam, so that his deed affects us. (See Heb. 7:9-10 for an example of this racial headship.) The fallen angels cannot be saved because they are not a race. They sinned individually and were judged individually. There can be no representative to take their judgment for them and save them. But because you and I were lost in Adam, our racial head, we can be saved in Christ, the Head of the new creation. Godís plan was both gracious and wise.

Our final question must be answered: how do we know that we are racially united to Adam? The answer is in Romans 5:12-14, and the argument runs like this: We know that all men die. But death is the result of disobeying the Law. There was no Law from Adam to Moses, but men still died. A general result demands a general cause. What is that cause? It can be only one thing: the disobedience of Adam. When Adam sinned, he ultimately died. All of his descendants died (Gen. 5), yet the Law had not yet been given. Conclusion: they died because of Adamís sin. "For that all have sinned" (Rom. 5:12) means "all have sinned in Adamís sin." Men do not die because of their own acts of sin; otherwise, babies would not die (Rom. 9:11). Men die because they are united racially to Adam, and "in Adam all men die" (1 Cor. 15:22).

Because of Adamís sin, manís nature became sinful.

We are born with a sin nature. We arenít sinners because we sin, we are by nature sinners. When we sin, we only prove that we are by nature sinners.

There are folks who deny that man has a sin nature.

But what results from that is the possibility that man could live a life without sin. And then you wouldnít need Jesus to die for your sins. This is a pretty wicked lie from the enemy, deceiving people into thinking that they donít need Jesus.


Adamís sin affected me.


Sages of old contended that no sin was ever committed whose consequences rested on the head of the sinner alone, that no man could do ill and others not suffer. They illustrated it in this way: "A vessel sailing from Joppa carried a passenger who, beneath his berth, cut a hole through the ship's side. When the men of the watch rebuked him, 'What are you doing, you miserable man?' the offender calmly replied, 'What does it matter to you? The hole I have made is under my own berth.'"

This ancient parable is worthy of the utmost consideration. No man perishes alone in his iniquity. No man can guess the full consequences of his transgression.

-- Charles Haddon Spurgeon



:13 (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law.

imputed Ė ellogeo Ė to reckon in, set to one's account, lay to one's charge, impute

(Rom 5:13 NLT) Yes, people sinned even before the law was given. And though there was no law to break, since it had not yet been given,

Just because the Law hadnít been specifically given doesnít mean that people werenít sinful.

But because there wasnít a law given from Adam to Moses, people werenít as aware of the fact of their sin.

You might be driving 85 miles an hour on a country road and not be aware of the fact that youíre speeding. Just because you donít see a sign with the speed limit posted doesnít mean that youíre not going too fast. But when you see the speed limit sign, then you become aware of the fact that youíre guilty.

:14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression,

transgression Ė parabasis Ė a going over; metaph. a disregarding, violating

parabasij is transgression, the passing beyond some assigned limit. It is the breaking of a distinctly recognized commandment. It consequently means more than amartia.

Adamís "sin" was a "transgression" in that it was an act against a specific command. It wasnít that Adam was in some way just a vaguely naughty boy. He specifically broke Godís command to not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

(Gen 2:16-17 KJV) And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: {17} But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

(Gen 3:1-6 KJV) Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? {2} And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: {3} But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. {4} And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: {5} For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. {6} And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.

Death reigned over the entire human race, even though it was only Adam that had specifically broken a command. Death reigned because of Adamís sin and because even though they had not broken an expressly specific command, the rest of humanity was also sinful.

:14 who is the figure of him that was to come.

figure Ė tupos ("type") Ė the mark of a stroke or blow, print; an example; of a type i.e. a person or thing prefiguring a future (Messianic) person or thing

Adam was a "type" of Christ in that he did a single act that had consequences through the entire human race. Adamís sin effected the entire human race, giving us all sin. Jesusí death on the cross effected the entire human race in that it made payment for our sin possible through faith in His blood.

Wiersbe writes,

In Romans 5:14, Adam is called "the figure of Him that was to come." Adam was a type, or picture, of Jesus Christ. Adam came from the earth, but Jesus is the Lord from heaven (1 Cor. 15:47). Adam was tested in a Garden, surrounded by beauty and love; Jesus was tempted in a wilderness, and He died on a cruel cross surrounded by hatred and ugliness. Adam was a thief, and was cast out of Paradise; but Jesus Christ turned to a thief and said, "Today shalt thou be with Me in Paradise" (Luke 23:43). The Old Testament is "the book of the generations of Adam" (Gen. 5:1) and it ends with "a curse" (Mal. 4:6). The New Testament is "The book of the generation of Jesus Christ" (Matt. 1:1) and it ends with "no more curse" (Rev. 22:3).

:15 But not as the offence, so also is the free gift.

offence Ė paraptoma Ė to fall beside or near something; a lapse or deviation from truth and uprightness

paraptwma is used in different senses, sometimes in a milder sense, denoting an error, a mistake, a fault; and sometimes meaning a trespass, a willful sin.

free gift Ė charisma Ė a favour with which one receives without any merit of his own

Donít compare the offence of Adam with the gift of Jesus too far. The gift is far greater than the offence.

:15 For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.

many be dead Ė better, "many died"

grace Ė charis Ė grace; good will, loving-kindness, favour

the gift Ė dorea Ė a gift

abounded Ė perisseuo Ė to exceed a fixed number of measure, to be left over and above a certain number or measure

(Rom 5:15 NLT) And what a difference between our sin and God's generous gift of forgiveness. For this one man, Adam, brought death to many through his sin. But this other man, Jesus Christ, brought forgiveness to many through God's bountiful gift.

Itís almost as if the picture is that Adamís offence filled our cups to the top with death. But the gift that comes through Jesus is a gift of grace, a gift of Godís forgiveness, and it doesnít just fill us to the top with grace, it completely overflows us with grace.


One night in 1935, Fiorello H. La Guardia, mayor of New York, showed up at a night court in the poorest ward of the city. He dismissed the judge for the evening and took over the bench. One case involved an elderly woman who was caught stealing bread to feed her grandchildren. La Guardia said, "I've got to punish you. Ten dollars or ten days in jail."

As he spoke, he threw $10 into his hat. He then fined everyone in the courtroom 50 cents for living in a city "where a person has to steal bread so that her grandchildren can eat." The hat was passed around, and the woman left the courtroom with her fine paid and an additional $47.50.

This is just a small picture of what Godís grace is like to us.

:16 And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification.

condemnation Ė katakrima Ė damnatory sentence, condemnation

justification Ė dikaioma Ė that which has been deemed right so as to have force of law

(Rom 5:16 NLT) And the result of God's gracious gift is very different from the result of that one man's sin. For Adam's sin led to condemnation, but we have the free gift of being accepted by God, even though we are guilty of many sins.

Another contrast between Adamís act and Jesusí act is that Adamís act resulted in our condemnation, where as Jesusí act resulted in our being made righteous ("justified"), even though weíve committed many sins.

:17 For if by one man's offence death reigned by one

Because of one manís sin, it affected the entire human race.

(Gen 5:1-14 KJV) This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him; {2} Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created. {3} And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, after his image; and called his name Seth: {4} And the days of Adam after he had begotten Seth were eight hundred years: and he begat sons and daughters: {5} And all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years: and he died. {6} And Seth lived an hundred and five years, and begat Enos: {7} And Seth lived after he begat Enos eight hundred and seven years, and begat sons and daughters: {8} And all the days of Seth were nine hundred and twelve years: and he died. {9} And Enos lived ninety years, and begat Cainan: {10} And Enos lived after he begat Cainan eight hundred and fifteen years, and begat sons and daughters: {11} And all the days of Enos were nine hundred and five years: and he died. {12} And Cainan lived seventy years, and begat Mahalaleel: {13} And Cainan lived after he begat Mahalaleel eight hundred and forty years, and begat sons and daughters: {14} And all the days of Cainan were nine hundred and ten years: and he died.

Note what happens with each person. They die. Death reigned.


You will die.

No one escapes. No one can cheat it.

You can thank Adam for that.

In Context (11/15/97), Martin Marty tells of a financial planner who made the comment, "When clients talk to me about their estates, they usually say, 'If I die,' not 'when I die.' Even 80-year-olds use the conditional."

-- Leadership, Vol. 19, no. 2.

What you donít have to face is eternal death, separation from God. You can thank Jesus for that.

:17 much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.)

abundance Ė perisseia Ė abundance, superabundantly, superfluously

righteousness Ė dikaiosune Ė in a broad sense: state of him who is as he ought to be, righteousness, the condition acceptable to God

reign Ė basileuo Ė to be king, to exercise kingly power, to reign; metaph. to exercise the highest influence, to control

(Rom 5:17 NLT) The sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over us, but all who receive God's wonderful, gracious gift of righteousness will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.

We have a choice between two kingdoms: death and life, sin and righteousness, Adam and Christ.


An Old Testament story helps us understand the conflict between these two "reigns" in the world today. God rejected Saul as the king of Israel, and anointed David. Those who trusted David eventually shared his kingdom of peace and joy. Those who trusted Saul ended in shame and defeat.

Like David, Jesus Christ is Godís anointed King. Like Saul, Satan is still free to work in this world and seek to win menís allegiance. Sin and death are reigning in the "old creation" over which Adam was the head, but grace and righteousness are reigning in "the new creation" over which Christ is the Head. And as we yield to Him, we "reign in life."


Having real control.

Without Jesus Christ, you will find that sin and death rule in your life. No matter how hard you try, you will find yourself falling into the pit.

But with Jesus, we now have the choice to live in righteousness. We can let righteousness be the king of our lives. We can choose to do the right things.

:18 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.

(Rom 5:18 NLT) Yes, Adam's one sin brought condemnation upon everyone, but Christ's one act of righteousness makes all people right in God's sight and gives them life.

This is part of how Adam is a "type" of Christ, in that he did one act that affected all of mankind.

:19 For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.

disobedience Ė parakoe Ė a hearing amiss; disobedience

were made Ė kathistemi Ė (aorist tense) to set, place, put; to set down as, constitute, to declare, show to be; to constitute, to render, make, cause to be

obedience Ė hupakoe Ė obedience, compliance, submission

In the Greek, the words are opposites also (disobedience / obedience)

shall Ö be made Ė same as "were made" above, but now future tense.

(2 Cor 5:21 KJV) For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

:20 Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:

might abound Ė pleonazo Ė to superabound; to make to increase: one in a thing

(Rom 5:20 NLT) God's law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God's wonderful kindness became more abundant.

The Law wasnít given to make us righteous. The Law wasnít given as a way for us to earn our way into heaven. It was given to show us just how sinful we really are.

Itís not that the Law makes us more sinful, but it simply makes clear just how sinful we are.

Itís kind of like a person who hasnít had much musical training, but somehow gets into their head the notion that they are a great musician. Then one day, they hear a real musician, and on top of that, they have their own music recorded and compared to the real musician. Then they hear just how bad it really sounds. Itís not that they actually got worse as a musician, but when they were compared to a much higher standard, they found out how bad they were.

The byproduct of us realizing just how sinful we really are is that we begin to realize how wonderful Godís kindness is towards us.


Donít look at the depth of your sin without looking at the height of Godís grace.

Godís grace can cover any sin.


There is a tradition that Jonathan Edwards, third president of Princeton and one of America's greatest thinkers, had a daughter with an uncontrollable temper. But, as is often the case, this weakness was not known to the outside world. A worthy young man fell in love with her and sought her hand in marriage. "You can't have her," was the abrupt answer of Jonathan Edwards. "But I love her," the young man replied. "You can't have her," said Edwards. "But she loves me," continued the young man. Again Edwards said, "You can't have her." "Why?" asked the young man. "Because she is not worthy of you." "But," he asked, "she is a Christian, is she not?" "Yes, she is a Christian, but the grace of God can live with some people with whom no one else could ever live."

Some of us get a little mesmerized by the horrible depth of our sin. Weíll study and examine just how deep our sin goes, and to our amazement, itís pretty deep! And that can get depressing!

But as horribly deep as our sin gets, we need to recognize that Godís grace is even greater.

Itís like exploring a coal mine. We might find that our sin goes three miles down in depth. We might find that it goes five miles down. We might find that it goes ten miles down. But as far down as it goes, Godís grace is so incredibly great, that itís able to fill any size hole that we can dig. And it can always come out overflowing the hole.

:21 That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.


Let grace rule in your life.


My gardeners set out to remove a large tree which grew near a wall. As it would weaken the wall to stub up the roots, it was agreed that the stump should remain in the ground. But I wanted to make sure the stump would not grow and disfigure the gravel walk. The gardener's prescription was to cover it with a layer of salt. I mused awhile, and thought that the readiest way to keep down my ever-sprouting corruptions in the future would be to sow them well with the salt of grace. Oh Lord, help me to do so.

-- Charles Haddon Spurgeon