Romans 5:12-21

Thursday Evening Bible Study

July 10, 2008


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 we’ve 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 man’s disobedience versus what has been given to man through one man’s obedience.

:12-21  Adam and Jesus

:12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned;

One man’s sin – This is what Adam did in the garden of Eden when he ate the forbidden fruit.

Adam’s fall


In autumn 2002, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, a priceless 15th century marble statue of Adam by the Venetian sculptor Tullio Lombardo crashed to the ground in the Velez Blanco Patio toppled and shattered while no one was in the room. Although vandalism was initially suspected, curators determined that the life-sized Venetian sculpture “buckled of its own accord” said Time magazine.
“It will take a great deal of time and skill, but the piece can be restored,” the museum’s director said.
submitted by Bill White, Paramount, California; "Museum to mend shattered statue," BBC News (10-10-02)
I’m curious how they’re doing putting Adam back together again after his “fall”?

Paul is saying that Adam’s sin made us all sinners.

How does Adam’s sin make us sinners?

It is a genetic kind of thing?
The problem with thinking of sin as genetic is that Paul is going to compare Adam to Jesus.  Adam’s sin affects all of us in the same way that Jesus’ sacrifice affects all of us.
If Adam’s sin affects us because of genetics, how could Jesus’ sin affect us since we are not biologically Jesus’ descendants?

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.  Theologians will explain that Adam sinned as a “federal head”, and so because he sinned, we sinned.

We may be concerned about who we elect president in the upcoming elections.  The president acts on behalf of the United States.  What the president does affects us.

Because of Adam’s sin, man’s nature became sinful. 

We are born with a sin nature.  We aren’t 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 wouldn’t need Jesus to die for your sins. This is a pretty wicked lie from the enemy, deceiving people into thinking that they don’t need Jesus.


Adam’s sin affected me.

Charles Spurgeon writes,

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.

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

imputedellogeo – 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 hadn’t been specifically given doesn’t mean that people weren’t sinful.

But because there wasn’t a law given from Adam to Moses, people weren’t 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 you’re speeding.  Just because you don’t see a sign with the speed limit posted doesn’t mean that you’re not going too fast.  But when you see the speed limit sign, then you become aware of the fact that you’re guilty.

:14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam,

reignedbasileuo – to be king, to exercise kingly power, to reign

This is one of the words that appears several times (5x) in this passage.

Picture “death”, the “grim reaper”, as the “king” ruling the world.

Who is going to “reign” in your life?

transgressionparabasis – a going over; metaph. a disregarding, violating; the passing beyond some assigned limit; the breaking of a distinctly recognized commandment

Adam’s “sin” was a “transgression” in that it was an act against a specific command.  It wasn’t that Adam was in some way just a vaguely naughty boy.  He specifically broke God’s command to not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

(Gen 2:16-17 NKJV)  And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, "Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; {17} "but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die."
(Gen 3:1-6 NKJV)  Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, "Has God indeed said, 'You shall not eat of every tree of the garden'?" {2} And the woman said to the serpent, "We may eat 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 has said, 'You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.'" {4} Then the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die. {5} "For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." {6} So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.

Death reigned over the entire human race, even though it was only Adam that had specifically broken a command.

Even though there was no “law” until the time of Moses, people still died, even if they weren’t guilty of Adam’s specific sin – the sin of eating from the tree that God had forbidden.

People still died.  Why?  Because they were guilty because of Adam’s sin.  Adam’s sin condemned us all as sinners.
We sin because we are sinners.

:14 who is a type of Him who was to come.

typetupos (“type”, “typewriter”) – the mark of a stroke or blow, print; a figure formed by a blow or impression; of a figure or image

Adam was an image or figure of someone who was still going to come.

Him who was to comemello – to be about

There is a sense in which Adam is a picture of Jesus.

They are more different than the same though:
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).
Here’s the key way how they’re alike: 
Adam did one act that affected all of us.  Jesus did one act that affected all of us.

:15 But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man's offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many.

offenseparaptoma – to fall beside or near something; a lapse or deviation from truth and uprightness; a sin, misdeed

free giftcharisma – (“charismatic”) literally, “a work of grace”; a favor with which one receives without any merit of his own; the gift of divine grace; the same word is used to describe “spiritual gifts”

aboundedperisseuo – to exceed a fixed number of measure, to be left over and above a certain number or measure

In other words, don’t compare the offense of Adam with the gift of Jesus too far.  The gift is far greater than the offense.

Adam had an “offense”.  Jesus had “grace”.

Adam’s “offense” brought death.  Jesus’ “grace” brought God’s grace and caused it to “abound.

(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.

It’s almost as if the picture is that Adam’s offense filled our cups to the top with death.  But the gift that comes through Jesus is a gift of grace, a gift of God’s forgiveness, and it doesn’t just fill us to the top with grace, it completely overflows us with grace.

It’s as if Adam’s sin dug a huge hole in our back yard.  The grace of God is what fills that hole.  But it doesn’t just fill the hole, it overflows it.


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 God’s grace is like to us.

:16 And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned.

The gift of grace from Jesus is a bit different than the thing that came through Adam, the one who sinned…

:16 For the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation, but the free gift which came from many offenses resulted in justification.

judgmentkrima – a decree, judgments

condemnationkatakrima – (“against” + “judgment” = a “judgment against” a person) damnatory sentence, condemnation

free giftcharisma – (“charismatic”) literally, “a work of grace”; same word as used in verse 15.

justificationdikaioma (“the work of” “rendering someone righteous”) – that which has been deemed right so as to have force of law

Adam’s sin brought judgment, it resulted in our condemnation.

The free gift of Jesus came because of our “many offenses” – Jesus had to die for us because we deserved death and God didn’t want us to pay for our sins. 

The free gift of Jesus resulted in our “justification”, being declared “righteous”.

(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.

:17 For if by the one man's offense death reigned through the one,

Adam’s sin brought death to the entire human race:

(Gen 5:1-11 NKJV)  This is the book of the genealogy of Adam. In the day that God created man, He made him in the likeness of God. {2} He created them male and female, and blessed them and called them Mankind in the day they were created. {3} And Adam lived one hundred and thirty years, and begot a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth. {4} After he begot Seth, the days of Adam were eight hundred years; and he had sons and daughters. {5} So all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years; and he died. {6} Seth lived one hundred and five years, and begot Enosh. {7} After he begot Enosh, Seth lived eight hundred and seven years, and had sons and daughters. {8} So all the days of Seth were nine hundred and twelve years; and he died. {9} Enosh lived ninety years, and begot Cainan. {10} After he begot Cainan, Enosh lived eight hundred and fifteen years, and had sons and daughters. {11} So all the days of Enosh were nine hundred and five years; and he died.

If you keep reading, you will find that all men have something in common.  They all die.
There have only been a few exceptions – Enoch appears to have skipped death (Gen. 5:24).  Elijah was taken up into heaven in a chariot of fire (2Ki. 2:11).  If we should be alive on the earth at the time of the Rapture, we will experience the same thing – skipping physical death and going straight to heaven (1Th. 4:17).
Those are the exceptions.  For everyone else the rule is the same.  We will all die.


You will die.

They say that there are two universal things – death and taxes.
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.

A 2005 article in National Geographic identified three regions of the world where people have consistently shown longer life spans: Okinawa, Sardinia, and Loma Linda, California. Dan Buettner, a researcher and explorer involved with the 2005 article, decided to do a follow-up study to determine if there were more regions to be discovered. His team found an abnormally large number of people living past 90—even into their 100s—on the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica.
Intrigued, Buettner and a large research team made their way to the region to discover what factors aided in living a longer life. They found that longevity is due in part to diet, sun exposure, and source of water, but they also found the following factors to be crucial in the survival of the people:
The people on the Nicoya Peninsula have a strong sense of purpose. They “feel needed and want to contribute to a greater good.”
They choose to focus on the family. Persons over 100 years of age in this region “tend to live with their families…. Children or grandchildren provide support and a sense of purpose and belonging.”
They have strong social networks. Their neighbors visit frequently, and they all seem to know the value of listening, laughing, and appreciating what they have.
They know the value of hard work. They even manage to “find joy in everyday physical chores.”
They understand and appreciate their historical roots and spiritual traditions. In essence, they know their story.

Ted DeHass, Bedford, Iowa; source: Dan Buettner, "Costa Rica Secrets to a Long Life," AARP magazine (May/June 2008), p. 69

I think it’s good to do things to prolong your life.
But the final result is still the same.  You and I will one day be dead.  If the Lord doesn’t come back in the next 150 years (which seems highly unlikely), there will not be a single person in this room alive.
In the 2007 film The Bucket List, two terminally ill men—played by Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman—take a road trip to do the things they always said they would do before they “kicked the bucket.” In anticipation of the film’s release, Nicholson was interviewed for an article in Parade magazine. While reflecting on his personal life, Nicholson said:

I used to live so freely. The mantra for my generation was “Be your own man!” I always said, “Hey, you can have whatever rules you want—I’m going to have mine. I’ll accept the guilt. I’ll pay the check. I’ll do the time.” I chose my own way. That was my philosophical position well into my 50s. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve had to adjust.

But reality has a way of getting the attention of even a Jack Nicholson. Later in the interview, Nicholson adds:

We all want to go on forever, don’t we? We fear the unknown. Everybody goes to that wall, yet nobody knows what’s on the other side. That’s why we fear death.

Dotson Rader, "I want to go on forever," Parade magazine (12-9-07), pp. 6-8

Actually Mr. Nicolson, we do know what is on the other side.

:17 much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.)

abundanceperisseia – abundance, superabundantly, superfluously

will reignbasileuo – to be king, to exercise kingly power, to reign

(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: 

Sin or Righteousness.

Death or life.

Adam or Christ.


Choosing victory starts with grace

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 “reign” in “life”.
It’s when we receive the “abundance of grace” and the “gift of righteousness” that we have the ability to “reign”.
How does this work?
It starts with the choice.  It starts with “receiving”.
Receiving an “abundance of grace” and the “gift of righteousness”.
A starting point for this comes when we learn to confess our sin.

(1 John 1:9 NKJV)  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

We find “grace”, we find “righteousness” when we admit our sin to God.

Look at what grace and forgiveness does to a person:
(Luke 19:1-10 NKJV)  Then Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. {2} Now behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich. {3} And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not because of the crowd, for he was of short stature. {4} So he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was going to pass that way. {5} And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, "Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house." {6} So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully. {7} But when they saw it, they all complained, saying, "He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner." {8} Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, "Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold." {9} And Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; {10} "for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost."

Zacchaeus found acceptance with Jesus.  It changed him from being a self-centered man to a man who made things right with people.

:18 Therefore, as through one man's offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man's righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life.

Paul again reiterates what he’s been saying the last couple of verses.

(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 also by one Man's obedience many will be made righteous.

disobedienceparakoe – a hearing amiss; disobedience

obediencehupakoe – obedience, compliance, submission

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

were made … will be madekathistemi – to set, place, put; to set one over a thing (in charge of it); to appoint one to administer an office

Through Adam’s disobedience, we were appointed to the office of “sinner”.

Through Jesus’ obedience, we will one day be appointed to the office of “righteous”.

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

might aboundpleonazo – to superabound; to increase; be augmented

The word is made from the word “more” and making “more” of “more”, or, “more2

God gave the Law to Moses so that sin would become more obvious.

Sin was already around before Moses’ time, but the Law made it much more obvious.

Okay.  You’re in your car driving 40 mph. It’s one thing to be driving down a country road without knowing what the speed limit is.

But driving down a city road, going right past the speed limit sign – you have no excuse.  And then you drive a little farther and you get one of those radar signs that shows you how fast you are driving, and telling you to slow down.  And you drive a little farther and a motorcycle officer is pointing his radar gun at you.
That’s when the offense is “superabounding”.

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

It’s kind of like a person who hasn’t 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.  It’s 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.

abounded much morehuperperisseuo – to abound beyond measure, abound exceedingly; to overflow, to enjoy abundantly

This is taking the word “more2” and putting the word “hyper” in front of it.

This is “hyper-superabounding”.

This is reminding us of verse 15:

(Rom 5:15 NKJV)  …For if by the one man's offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many.

When the Law was added by God to show men how much more sinful they were, it wasn’t without God also showing men that no matter how bad they were, God was able to show them even more grace.

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


Don’t look at the depth of your sin without looking at the height of God’s grace.

God’s grace can cover any sin.
One person that had a grasp of this:
(Luke 7:36-48 NKJV)  Then one of the Pharisees asked Him to eat with him. And He went to the Pharisee's house, and sat down to eat. {37} And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, {38} and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil. {39} Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he spoke to himself, saying, "This man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner." {40} And Jesus answered and said to him, "Simon, I have something to say to you." So he said, "Teacher, say it." {41} "There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. {42} "And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?" {43} Simon answered and said, "I suppose the one whom he forgave more." And He said to him, "You have rightly judged." {44} Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. {45} "You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in. {46} "You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. {47} "Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little." {48} Then He said to her, "Your sins are forgiven."
Some of us get a little mesmerized by the horrible depth of our sin.  We’ll study and examine just how deep our sin goes, and to our amazement, it’s pretty deep!  And that can get depressing!
But as horribly deep as our sin gets, we need to recognize that God’s grace is even greater.
It’s 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, God’s grace is so incredibly great, that it’s able to fill any size hole that we can dig.  And it can always come out overflowing the hole.

:21 so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

reigned … might reignbasileuo – to be king, to exercise kingly power, to reign


Real grace results in righteousness

Paul would face accusations from some that teaching about “grace” would only lead to more sin.
The idea is that if you talk too much about God’s love and forgiveness, people will think, “Then why worry about sinning?  Can’t I just fall back on God’s grace?”
Paul will deal with those accusations more in the next chapter.
Here Paul is teaching that real grace leads to righteousness, not sin.
It’s Zacchaeus being forgiven and turning around to give back to those he’s wronged.
It’s the prodigal son returning to be the Father’s servant, not because he expected a party.
An acquaintance of mine nearly lost his life in a flying accident a few years ago. I had breakfast with him some time after that accident, and I asked him how his accident and his lingering physical problems had affected him. He said, “Bill, I see life so much more clearly now. My relationship with Jesus Christ is now of supreme importance.” It hadn’t been before. “Now when I hold my wife and when I kiss my children, I realize what a treasure they are.” I remember sliding back from the table, thinking, That loss served this brother well. It simplified and clarified what really mattered in life.

-- Bill Hybels, "The Often-overlooked Benefits of Losing,"

Musician Steven Curtis Chapman writes:
In brokenness, I have felt tangible expressions of God’s grace…. I had stacked some rocks out at this little place in the woods, a place I had gone to pray, desperate for God to do something, to show up, or to have some sort of breakthrough. As I was praying, I remember smelling cedar, so strong it distracted me from my prayer. I looked around to see this little cedar tree that had been snapped in half from my stepping in there. . . . That was where the smell was coming from. It was a tangible sign of grace as I was coming to understand it. I had a little note pad out there with me, and I wrote down these words: “The fragrance of the broken.”

Steven Curtis Chapman in CCM (July 1999)

True grace recognizes the price of brokenness.  There is a fragrance, a beauty that invades your life with true grace.  You do not want to abuse the cost of grace.  You want to honor grace through obedience.

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