Brian Allen
Sinner rescued by God, husband, father, and pastor of Providence Baptist Church in Beaumont, TX.
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Romans 5:12-20
Romans 5:12-21
The Second Adam is our Champion!
Published March 11th, 2019; Updated March 13th, 2019
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Main point summary
The main point of Romans 5:12-21 is that Jesus, like Adam, though only one person affected all people who are associated with Him. Through Adam and our union and tie to him we inherited brokenness and corruption and death. Through Jesus, as the second Adam who did not fail, and our union with Him by faith we are credited with His righteousness and are given a new nature by the power of the Spirit to actually become righteous. Jesus is our champion! He passed the test for us! His victory is credited to us! Just like through one man we inherited death, through the One, Jesus Christ, we are given eternal abundant life! But, this is also the primary passage associated with the doctrine of "Original Sin". The negative comparison side (Adam's sin and fall), which supports the main point of Christ as the better Adam, is where we learn most clearly and explicitly how Adam's sin effected all of humanity. One common doctrine developed by looking at the negative side of the logical argument is that the GUILT of Adam's sin is IMPUTED to all humanity such that a miscarried baby bears the guilt of Adam eating the fruit. The basis for this interpretation is the comparison of the effect of Adam's sin on all who are in him to the effect of Jesus' life and atoning death for all who are in Him. It is clear from scripture that Jesus' righteousness is CREDITED to us by faith such that His merit and perfection are the ground for our reconciliation with God and worthiness to be in His presence. Therefore, because Romans 5:12 says, "Therefore, JUST AS through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin", the conclusion is drawn that JUST AS Jesus' righteousness is CREDITED to us though we didn't actually possess it or perform it, Adam's guilt was CREDITED to us though we didn't perform the sin. The second conclusion, agreed to by all, is that we inherited a corrupt nature that is repulsive to God and WILL always lead to freely chosen rebellion and sin leading to personal guilt. This is clear from many passages of scripture (Seen in Genesis, Romans 8 , Ephesians 2, and many other places). This nature, of itself, is repulsive to God and separates us from Him (Romans 8:6-8). Jesus' perfect life and atoning death is the only way ANY human is saved. A miscarried baby, though they have not done anything good or bad (Romans 9:11-12) and have not sinned by transgressing any law of God, still has Adam's broken, fallen, corrupt nature which requires Jesus' righteousness credited to them and atoning death to remove/cover/transform that corrupt nature. (John 3:3) The question I want to address is does Romans 5:12-21 and the rest of scripture require us to say that we inherited the guilt of Adam's sin as if we ourselves ate the fruit? Were we IMPUTED Adam's sin? Or, did we only inherit the corrupt nature which ALWAYS results in our own sinning? The attached arc, list of scriptures below, and associate dot-notes indicate how this passage can be interpreted without requiring us to believe that we inherited the GUILT of Adam's sin. What difference does it make? It does not change the fact that the only way to God is through faith in Jesus. No human will enter the Kingdom of God apart from being born again by the Spirit and being set free from the law of sin and death which is inherited from Adam. The primary reason why it would matter is being faithful and extremely careful about what we claim scripture is saying. We do not want to go beyond what is written or can be clearly deduced in our dogmatic doctrines. There are other passages of scripture that could be interpreted as contrary or contradictory to this interpretation. (Ezekiel 18, Romans 6:23) Key texts pertaining to this passage: Romans 7:9 : When was Paul alive apart from the Law? Is Paul saying, he wasn't aware that he was dead until the commandment came or is he saying that he had not yet been guilty of a transgression until the commandment came (conscience at a very young age) and it awakened sin and resulted in transgression and earning an eternal death sentence. Romans 4:15 : Where there is no law, there is also no violation. This is repeated in Romans 5 where Paul says, "Sin is not imputed where there is no law". The only people who have NO law are people who have no awareness/sense of conscience like severely mentally retarded or infants? Romans 9:11-14 Here we see that in Paul's mind, Jacob and Esau had not done anything good or bad. Their judgment was not as a result of works. We don't see any assumed GUILT on Jacob and Esau as the basis for God's rejection of Esau. Romans 6:23 : Death is earned by our own sin. Eternal life is a free gift by grace through faith. Ezekiel 18 : There seems to be some kind of principle of God not punishing people for other people's sin? 1 Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 2 “What do you mean by using this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying, ‘The fathers eat the sour grapes, But the children’s teeth are set on edge’? 3 As I live,” declares the Lord God , “you are surely not going to use this proverb in Israel anymore. 4 Behold, all souls are Mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine. The soul who sins will die. Ezekiel 18:1-4 NASB
Main point summary
Adam is a type of Christ. He represented us as the natural born human species before God. When he sinned, he was cursed and all of his kind, born into this world inherited that cursed dead nature. Similar to Adam, Jesus came to earth to be our second Adam, the champion, the hope of redemption, the hope of victory! When Jesus was tempted HE DID NOT SIN! When Jesus was given laws from God, He willingly and joyfully and loyally submitted to His Father's will. He PASSED the test. He did not fail like the first Adam! Jesus represents all God's elect who trust in Him and call on the name of God for mercy! Jesus' righteousness and atoning death are credited to us by the Father and we are BORN AGAIN into a new people, and will one day be FULLY set free from the curse of sin.
Romans 5:12-21
Therefore, just as through a one man sin entered into the world,
Therefore, just as through one single human being, Adam, sin entered into the earth [sin was already in creation through Satan and fallen angels].
and b death through sin,
and physical death, spiritual death, and eternal death came to the world through sin,
and c so death spread to all men,
and so this physical, spiritual, and eternal death spread to all of Adam's kind,
because all sinned—
because all of Adam's kind sinned [as a result of a dead/corrupt nature given to all of his posterity as a result of the fall]-
for 1 until the Law sin was in the world,
[You say, how were people transgressing if they did not have a law to transgress? I'll tell you!] Until the Mosaic Law was given, SIN was in the world. People were rebelling against God's standard of righteousness and were worshiping creatures rather than the creator and they KNEW IT (Romans 1:18-32). From Cain to Esau to Ishmael to Job's friends, all throughout that period, people had knowledge of good and evil (see the curse of the fall). The Israelites that saw Moses kill the Egyptian understood that murder was wrong. There was awareness of sin in the form of conscience ever since the fall of man!
but a sin is not imputed when there is no law.
but there is this principle that in the absence of ANY law or conscience, God does not hold an individual accountable for those sins. (If there is no awareness of sin or conscience, as is the case of the severely mentally retarded or of infants, can there be transgression (although the sin nature is present)?)
Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses,
BUT it is clear that sin was being punished from creation to when God gave the Mosaic law, [THEREFORE, THERE WAS LAW!!!: the moral law written on all men's hearts (Romans 1:18-32, Romans 2)]
even over those who had not sinned a in the likeness of the offense of Adam,
this punishment for sin was happening even to those who did not have direct commands or written Law like Adam had [they had the moral law written on their hearts which was condemning them. Romans 2:12-15]
who is a 1 b type of Him who was to come.
Adam, who is a type, a pointer to, a foreshadowing of Jesus in that Adam represented the human race like David represented Israel against Goliath. If David wins his battle, all Israel wins, if David loses, all Israel loses. Jesus is the ultimate representative, the ultimate David. This is why he put on flesh and dwelt among us. He became like us so that he could save us, so He could live the life we could not live AS OUR REPRESENTATIVE, the second Adam, and pay the debt we could not pay.
But 1 the free gift is not like the transgression.
But, justification by grace through faith in Christ is NOT like the result of Adam's sin.
For if by the transgression of a the one
For, if by the breaking of God's command to not eat from the tree by one man
b the many died,
there resulted spiritual death in all of that man's posterity and species such that as all naturally sinned out of that nature, all earned the penalty of death from sinning, [Ephesians 2 dead (Dead in our sins and trespasses), Romans 8 dead (mind set on the flesh that is not able to submit to God and please him), # Corinthians # dead (where we are blind to the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.). We come into existence with a state of spiritual death in our nature because of the curse that came upon our first father Adam who sinned against God.]
much more did the grace of God and the gift by c the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many.
much more did the grace of God and the gift of righteousness imputed to us from Christ abound to all who are in Christ by faith. It's different than the result of Adam's sin in that we EARN the sin as a result of our corrupt nature, but we are GIFTED FREELY, totally undeserved, with Jesus' righteousness. This is how the effect of the second Adam's righteous life and atoning death is DIFFERENT than the effect the first Adam's sin.
Lesser to Greater
The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned;
Justification by grace through faith in Christ is NOT like the curse that came by our father Adam;
for on the one hand a the judgment arose from one transgression
For on the one hand, the judgement and curse that spread a spiritually dead nature to all Adam's kind arose from one sin
1 resulting in condemnation,
resulting in condemnation for our sins that naturally flow from our dead nature,
but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions
but on the other hand, justification by grace through faith through Christ's life and death came in response to all of the sins of God's elect, to cover trillions of sins
2 resulting in justification.
resulting in all of God's elect who have faith in Him being declared righteous by God.
For if by the transgression of the one,
For if by the sin of the first Adam,
death reigned a through the one,
spiritual death and the sins that result from that dead nature were passed to all his posterity through one man,
much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will b reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.
the life that is tied to and empowered by the Spirit of Christ will have so much more power by His spirit than the power of darkness that formerly ruled them. [greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world].
Lesser to Greater
So then as through a one transgression
Therefore, similar to how through Adam's one sin
1 there resulted condemnation to all men,
there resulted a judicial sentence of condemnation to all naturally born people (born once, born of flesh) through a cursed nature that infallibly leads to transgressions which leads to condemnation for our sins,
even so through one b act of righteousness
even so through Jesus' obedience to death on a cross
2 there resulted c justification of life to all men.
there resulted acquittal and pardon and a declaration of "RIGHTEOUS" to all mankind who have faith in Christ and are born a second time, born of God.
For as through the one man’s disobedience
For as through Adam's disobedience
a the many b were made sinners,
all who are born of flesh were affected by the curse such that our nature is to sin. We were made natural born sinners,
even so through c the obedience of the One
similarly, through Jesus' perfectly obedient life and obedience unto death on a cross
a the many will be made righteous.
all who are born again in Him by grace through faith will be declared righteous AND by the Spirit through sanctification will be made righteous in their lives as the Spirit gives victory over sin and bears His fruit in their lives.
1 a The Law came in
The Mosaic Law was given
so that the transgression would increase;
to awaken dormant sin and to expose active sin even more effectively than the natural moral law that God wrote on all men's hearts;
but where sin increased,
But, as the Mosaic Law exposed and awakened sin,
b grace abounded all the more,
the grace of God through faith abounded all the more in regenerating sinners and giving them new hearts and victory over sin,
so that, as a sin reigned in death,
so that, similar to how sin reigned in the natural man leading to condemnation and a sentence of eternal death for sin,
even so b grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
even so grace would rule and overpower and reign over death through imputing Christ's righteousness to God's elect and by the Spirits power of sanctification to make His people truly holy resulting in eternal life through the life and death of Jesus Christ our Lord.
People were still sinning and being punished for sin even though they did not have direct commands from God like Adam did and like those which came through the Mosaic Law. It did not require the Mosaic law for people to be aware of sin and be culpable for sin because all those people who sinned prior to the mosaic law still died and all those gentile nations that did not have access to the Mosaic law were still culpable for their sin and still died even without the Mosaic law, BECAUSE they did have law! "They know the ordinance of God" and they "show the work of the law written in their hearts" (Romans 1 and 2). God's moral law was the law that condemned them.
"Death spread to all men because all sinned", but the question is being raised, how were people sinning and dying if they did not have laws to break like came through the Mosaic law? How could they be held accountable if they didn't have direct commands from God like "Don't eat of the tree" like Adam had? Paul, this doesn't seem fair?
Just as through one man SIN and death entered into the world, even so through one man JESUS, righteousness and justification and life entered into the world. The emphasis of the comparison could be the ONE MAN and not the exact manner in which sin was transmitted and righteousness was transmitted.
This "therefore" is referring back to Romans 5:1-11 where Paul says that through one man, Jesus we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand. He says that we have been saved from the wrath of God and justified by His death. In verse 10 it says that we are saved by Jesus' LIFE, which may be what he's trying to clarify in verses 12-21. He may be trying to answer the question, how are we saved by Jesus life? His answer is: Just like all of our lives were cursed through the fall and sin of one man because Adam was our head and representative, now, those who are in Christ are represented by and blessed by His life and perfect obedience and the gift of righteousness.
Could this mean that the many died as a result of their own sins which propagated from their inherited nature resulting in an eternal death sentence from the very first sin we commit? "For the WAGES (we earned our death from our own sins) of sin is death, BUT the FREE GIFT of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus." This would explain the difference in 15d... The free gift far surpasses the result of the sin because it is FREE!!! We earned the wages of sin which is death, but MUCH MORE did the grace of God and the free gift of righteousness about to all who are in Christ. Could this be Paul's point?
Yes, there are similarities from the effect of Adam's sin to the effect of Christ's life and death, BUT there are also differences. The nature was transmitted/inherited from Adam, but the wages of the sin was earned. Justification by grace through faith is much greater because it is a FREE GIFT! Jesus' righteousness is GIFTED to us without ANY action originating in our own power or will. We earn death, but we are GIFTED salvation.
Therefore, in summary, Adam is a type of Christ. He represented us as the natural born human species before God. When he sinned, he was cursed and all of his kind, born into this world inherited that cursed dead nature. Similar to Adam, Jesus came to earth to be our second Adam, the champion, the hope of redemption, the hope of victory! When Jesus was tempted HE DID NOT SIN! When Jesus was given laws from God, He willingly and joyfully and loyally submitted to His Father's will. He PASSED the test. He did not fail like the first Adam! Jesus represents all God's elect who trust in Him and call on the name of God for mercy! Jesus' righteousness and atoning death are credited to us by the Father and we are BORN AGAIN into a new people, and will one day be FULLY set free from the curse of sin.
In summary, through the first Adam, sin entered the world and since then people have been sinning; whether that be against the general moral law placed on their consciences by God, or by Mosaic law. The Mosaic law was given to even more powerfully awaken dormant sin and expose active sin so that people would be driven to seek mercy in God. But even though the Law increased sin, because of the dead nature we inherited from Adam, God's grace has poured out on the world through Jesus! Through one man, sin increased, but through the second Adam, Jesus, grace is overcoming the curse of the fall in God's people and will one day remove all sin and evil forever.
When you read Genesis and Exodus and Job, people were being punished for sin even though there was no Mosaic Law. The flood did not happen because of the guilt of Adam's sin, it was because of the nature inherited in Adam that resulted in every intent of people's hearts being only evil continually. It was because of their own great wickedness that they were judged and punished. They had law written on their hearts. They had a conscience that God gave them that condemned them. Consider Cain's sin - Cain sinned without Mosaic law and God judged him and punished him for it. He had real guilt for his own sin between Adam and Moses. In Genesis 12, the Pagan Pharaoh knew that he shouldn't commit adultery with Abraham's wife. God had already started judging and punishing him for the sin that he was planning. In Genesis 15, the Amorites were being judged for the SIN that God was allowing to build in their account such that God used Israel to punish 400 years of sin when they entered the promised land. There was sin, guilt, punishment (imputed sin) from Adam until Moses. THEREFORE, for this premise to be true, "Sin is not imputed where there is no law" and "they were punished for their sins from Adam until Moses" this means that there WAS LAW! The law written on all men's hearts.
Disclaimer: The opinions and conclusions expressed on this page are those of the author and may or may not accord with the positions of Biblearc or Bethlehem College & Seminary.