Grace For The Journey
Death. Even in a society in which the harsh reality of its personal nature has been diminished by making it an entertainment element in drama, which moves it a step into the world of make believe, and by moving those who are dying into the more sterile environments of hospitals and nursing facilities where professionals deal with the death process instead of us, the word still has a cold, bone chilling sound to it. Death. As much as anyone might even make a calculated effort to distance themselves from its reality, it is still there and cannot be removed. The news of the death of someone we do not know is a distant reality we can set off to the corner of our mind, but what can you do about the people you know that suddenly are no longer around because they have died. If it be an older relative or friend of the generation of your grandparents or parents, you look in the mirror and realize that your own generation will face the same fate. If it be someone of your own generation, denials cannot remove the haunting knowledge that you could be the next one being lowered into the cold ground. If it be someone younger, you realize that you are living on borrowed time and it is running out.
The hymn writer put it this way . . .
Time, like an ever-rolling stream, Bears all its sons away;
They fly, forgotten, as a dream. Dies at the op’ning day.
Why is there death? What is its origin? Has anyone ever conquered it? And if so, can they enable me to do the same? Paul answers those questions and more in Romans 5:12-21 as he continues to explain some of the ramifications of being justified by faith in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ and His work.
Before we go through these verses, let me briefly point out again the context of the passage. Notice that verse 12 begins with the word, “therefore.” Paul uses that to point us back to what he has already said as the basis for what he is going to say. The purpose of what he is going to discuss next is directly related to what he has just said. That is an important point, because this is another passage that is often used by theologians as if it had no relationship to Paul’s previous discussion. If the context is not kept in mind, then a correct interpretation is impossible.
Paul has already demonstrated that the natural state of all men is that they are under the wrath of God because they are ungodly and unrighteous (1:18-3:20). Only those who have had been justified by God’s grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus through faith in Him and His work of atonement escape God’s wrath and have a hope for eternity with Him as part of His family. In chapter 4, Paul uses Abraham as the example of this kind of faith.
In chapter 5 Paul begins to detail out some of the ramifications of being justified by faith in Christ Jesus. Among them are peace with God and being able to take great joy in the hope of the glory of God, in tribulations because of what God does through them in maturing the believer, and in God Himself for reconciling us to Himself through the Lord Jesus. The foundation for being able to rejoice in the midst of tribulations is that God’s love has been proven for all time and eternity in the death of Jesus Christ on our behalf.
The logical question that would come up now is how could the death of one person, Jesus Christ, be applied to the many people that believe in Him. Paul deals with this issue in verses 12-21 by pointing out the effect of one man, Adam, in bringing sin and its consequences on all mankind and contrasting that with what Jesus did.
The Origin of Sin – Verses 12-14.
Sin’s Entrance into the World – Verse 12.
In verse 12, we find the way in which sin entered the world. Paul expects his readers to be familiar with the truth of this story from Genesis 3. Most of you know that passage. God created Adam and Eve and placed them in the Garden of Eden. God told Adam in Genesis 2:16-17, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die.” The only prohibition upon Adam was to refrain from eating from the one tree. Everything else was available to him.
In Genesis 3 we find that Satan uses the serpent (Revelation 12:9) to entice Eve to eat from this very tree. He contradicts God’s warning that she would die (verse 4) and then continues his lie saying, “For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Eve is deceived and believes the lie, and in her desire to be like God, she eats. She then gives some of the fruit to Adam, who was with her, and he also eats and transgresses the commandment that God gave to him. It is at this point in time that sin enters into the world, referring to the dwelling place of men.
The origin of sin in the universe goes back to when Satan, also known as the “devil, Beelzubul,” and by his angelic name, “Lucifer” (“Star of the Morning”) was filled with pride and tried to ascend to make himself like the Most High God (Isaiah 14:12). This occurred sometime prior to his temptation of Eve.
Please note that sin entered through the action of one man, Adam. Eve, who would have received God’s command through Adam, was deceived (1 Timothy 2:14). Adam had received the command directly from God and consciously violated it despite the warning about the consequence. It is in Adam that all die (1 Corinthians 15:22).
Sin’s Spread to All Men – Verse 12.
The consequences of Adam’s sin are immediately felt. The Serpent is cursed. Eve is cursed. Adam is cursed and even the Earth is cursed (Genesis 3:14-19). They were then separated from God, which is spiritual death, and the process of physical death began. God had warned Adam that the wages of sin would be death, and due to Adam’s sin, death now also enters the world. It then spread to all men because they receive from Adam a sin nature for which they are also guilty and by which they also miss the mark of God’s righteousness.
Please note that this requires Adam and Eve to be the first humans. All humans are affected by Adam’s sin because all humans are their descendants. Any thoughts about man existing prior to Adam and Eve or there being other humans existing that are not their offspring is wrong. If there were, then there would be a race of people who would not be Adam’s descendants and therefore would not carry his sin nature. But the evidence that all people are descendants of Adam is obvious, for every human suffers the consequence of Adam’s inherited sin. They die.
Evolution is a foolish idea on every level. First, it contradicts the testimony of the only one that was there as an eyewitness – God. Second, it contradicts known laws of physics (2nd Law of Theromodynamics) and math (probability). Third, though those who espouse evolution proclaim themselves to be scientific / naturalistic, they do not follow the scientific method, for they purposely ignore and exclude all evidence that does not fit their hypothesis.
Yet, this foolish idea has led many professing Christians to disregard what Paul says here about the origin and extent of sin in the world. Many claim that Adam was mythical. Some claim that man is inherently good instead of evil. Their idea of redeeming man is wrapped up in changing his environment, circumstances, or giving drugs or psychotherapy so that this supposed goodness can come out.
Jesus died on behalf of sinners
Who are that way because of
An inherited sin nature which
They confirm by their own sin.
The universality of the condition
Is seen in that all bear its consequence.
Death spread to all men and no amount
Of environmental manipulation
Or therapy can change that.
Man’s only hope is in having
The penalty of his sin removed
And his nature changed.
Sin’s Universality – Verse 13.
How widespread was the sin problem? Paul goes back in verse 13 to a point he had made earlier.
While sin is not imputed where there is no law, there has always been law. Though the Mosaic law was the most detailed giving of God’s commands, God’s law existed prior to the coming of the Mosaic law. Specific commands had been given regarding sacrifices and such, and God had placed within man what Paul referred to in chapter 2 as “the law written in their hearts,” their conscience.
Paul gives the proof of this
Universal spread of sin
In the world in verse 14.
It is the reign of death.
Sin’s Reign of Death – Verse 14.
Genesis 5 has always been an interesting chapter to people because of the long lives lived by the
patriarchs. Adam lived 930 years; Seth lives 912 years; Enosh; lived 905years; Kenan lived 910 years; Mahalalel lived 895 years; Jared lived 962 years; and Methuselah lived 969 years.
But as amazing as their length of life is to us,
There is something very ordinary about all of them
Except Enoch who lived 365 years and
Then “was not, for God took him.”
Every other person died.
The truth is that genealogies
Are records of birth
Followed by death.
Death has reigned over man
Since Adam’s sin.
Paul specifically points out death’s reign prior to Moses even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of Adam’s offense. What is Paul talking about? Again, remember that Paul is responding to the idea that sin would not be imputed without the law and that the law came with Moses. While Paul would agree with the first part of the premise, he is showing that sin existed prior to the Mosaic law and therefore law existed before then as well. Paul has already pointed out the law of conscience that people violated and confirm themselves as sinners. But now he is showing the universality of Adam’s sin imputed to all people.
The reign of death is over not only those who have sinned in the likeness of Adam’s offense, but also those who have not sinned in that manner. What was Adam’s offense? Direct disobedience to God’s command. Who are those who have not sinned in the likeness of Adam’s offense and yet still die? Infants. While it could be argued that infants are innocent because they have not consciously violated any of God’s commands, the fact is that they are not innocent, but sinners because Adam’s sin is imputed to them. David said in Psalm 51:5, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.” When a baby is born, a sinner comes into the world, and given the opportunity, that baby will express that sin nature even before there is a conscious awareness of right and wrong.
People are not sinners because they sin.
They sin because they are sinners.
People lie because they are liars. They steal because they are thieves. They murder because they were already murders at heart before they took action. Remember what Jesus said to His disciples in Mark 7;21-23, “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting [and] wickedness, [as well as] deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride [and] foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.” That evil is there from conception. The proof? Infants also die. Death is the penalty of sin, and the death of those who have not consciously sinned demonstrates that our sin problem is greater than just our own deeds. All humans bear Adam’s sin and Adam’s guilt.
Obviously there will be those that would argue that this is not fair. I agree. If God was fair, He would have destroyed Adam and Eve while they were in the garden and none of us would exist. Yet . . .
God in His mercy has allowed us to exist,
And in His grace has made a way
In which both our sin nature
And guilt can be removed.
It comes in a similar way in which we received our sin nature. Adam is a type of Christ in this. Adam is the one that sinned, but we have his sin imputed to us as his descendants. In Adam all die (1 Corinthians 15:22). Jesus is the one that lived righteously and then willing paid for our sins. We have our sins forgiven and His righteousness imputed to us in being adopted into His family. In Him we are made alive (1 cor. 15:22). Yet, as Paul will explain in verses 15-21, that is as far as the typology of Adam goes.
The Origin of Hope – Verses 15-21.
The origin of our hope for the future is in our justification through faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ. However, the imputation of His righteousness to us is very different from our condemnation in Adam. Paul sets out these contrasts starting in verse 15.
The Transgression Verses God’s Grace – Verse 15.
The first contrast is the transgression verses the free gift that comes by God’s Grace. The transgression refers Adam’s sin. The word Paul uses here that is translated as “free gift” is “a gift that comes out of grace.” It could even be translated as “grace gift.” By definition, every gift is free, but all of us know there are certain gifts we give because there is an obligation of some sort – Birthday, Anniversary, Christmas, etc.
The emphasis here is that the gift
Is given out of grace alone.
The one receiving it is not deserving.
The idea would be expressed in going
To the jail and giving presents to the
Inmates even though you were recently robbed.
By the transgression of the one, Adam, many died. Even greater than this, the grace of God abounded to the many through the gift of life that came through the one Man, Jesus Christ. Paul uses “many” here and in verse 19 and the word “all” in verse 18 as literary parallels, but the meaning of the words were defined by what Paul has previously said about those included in the “many” and the “all.” The many that die because of the one transgression are all those that are not justified through faith in Jesus Christ. All humans will die physically, except for those Christians raptured a Jesus’ return, but the second death of being eternally separated from God and cast into the lake of fire only applies to the many whose names are not written in the Book of Life (Revelation 20:15). God’s grace gift that comes through Jesus Christ only goes to the many whose names are in the Book of Life. In Adam, men die. In Christ, men live.
The Judgement Verses The Free Gift – Verse 16.
In verse 16 Paul contrasts the judgement with the free gift. Adam’s one transgression brought God’s judgement and His just condemnation upon all mankind. One sin plummeted all people into sinfulness and God’s judgement and condemnation. Why? Because all humans were in Adam at the time of the sin.
It was Adam’s personal sin, but our sin because we were in him. What do I mean by that? Hebrews 7 gives us an illustration of this concept. In that passage the writer is demonstrating the superiority of the priest, Melchizedek, who is a type of Christ, to the Levitical priests. To prove his case he goes to the time in which Abraham paid a tithe to Melchizedek from the spoils of a battle he had just won. In verses 4-10 the writer says, “Now observe how great this man was to
whom Abraham, the patriarch, gave a tenth of the choicest spoils. And those indeed of the sons of Levi who receive the priest’s office have commandment in the Law to collect a tenth from the people, that is, from their brethren, although these are descended from Abraham. But the one whose genealogy is not traced from them collected a tenth from Abraham, and blessed the one who had the promises. But without any dispute the lesser is blessed by the greater. And in this case mortal men receive tithes, but in that case one [receives them], of whom it is witnessed that he lives on. And, so to speak, through Abraham even Levi, who received tithes, paid tithes, for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him.”
That is the same idea that Paul speaks of here in terms of us being in Adam at the time of his transgression. We may not like that, but that is the reality of the situation. His one sin brought all under God’s judgement and condemnation.
In contrast to that . . .
The free gift of salvation that comes from Christ
Brings about justification for the many
Transgressions committed by the many.
One sin brought condemnation to all in Adam.
One gift in Christ brings justification
Of the many sins of the many sinners.
It is sobering to consider God’s hatred of sin expressed in this verse. It is so great, that it only took one sin to bring about the condemnation of all mankind. At the same time, what a thrilling truth to also see in the same verse that God’s love is so great for the sinner that He provided for the redemption of all men in Christ. The love is greater than the hatred, for the love must cover a multitude of the hated transgressions.
Reign of Death Verses Reign of Life – Verse 17.
In verse 17 Paul contrasts the reign of death with the abounding reign of life that comes through Christ. Again, Paul points out the universal consequence on all men that Adam’s sin brought, “By the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one.” Contrasted to this is the abundance of grace and its consequences that are received by those justified by Christ.
They not only have their sin problem taken care of,
But as Paul points out here, they also gain
The gift of righteousness in Christ and will
Reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.
The idea of reigning in life through Christ is expressed in several passages. In John 10:10 Jesus said, “I came that they might have life, and might have [it] abundantly.” This life is not just existence, but a quality of life that can be experienced when you know and live for the Lord. It is a life in which the very purpose of your existence is fulfilled in glorifying God and in which you cannot be lonely and will always be secure because Jesus has promised to never forsake you and has sent the Holy Spirit to indwell you as proof of that promise. It is a life in which the power of sin is broken and in which we can live in righteousness. We will see more on that in Romans 6.
It is a life that looks forward to the future in which we will be blessed by God the Father and, “inherit the kingdom prepared for us before the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34). It is a life in which we will reign with Christ (2 Timothy 2:12).
In Adam, death reigns.
In Christ, life reigns.
Condemnation Verses Justification – 18.
In verse 18 Paul parallels the condemnation that comes through Adam with the justification that comes through Christ by showing their similarities as well as their divergent results., “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.” One sin brought condemnation. One act of righteousness brings justification. As pointed out earlier, Paul’s usage of”“all” in this verse is a literary device of parallelism. The meaning of “all” in each phrase has already been defined by what Paul has said earlier. This verse cannot be properly used to teach the idea of universal salvation.
In Adam all people are condemned. Every human is “born dead in trespasses and sin” (Ephesians 2:1). Christ’s act of righteousness is sufficient for the salvation of every human, but only those who believe in Him are justified by it (Romans 3:8). Paul explains further the nature of the transgression and act of righteousness in verse 19.
One Man’s Disobedience Verses The Obedience of the One – Verse 19.
Verse 19 says, “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.” The nature of Adam’s transgression was disobedience. Transgression means to trespass. It is to step off the path into a place you don’t belong, hence, a deviation from truth and righteousness which is sin. The nature of Jesus’ act of righteousness was one of obedience. He remained on the path and true despite all the obstacles placed before Him. The “act of righteousness” referred to in verse 18 encompasses all of Jesus’ acts of obedience to the Father’s will. It is His coming to Earth and becoming a man (Philippians 2:5ff). It is living a sinless life (Hebrews 4:15). It is suffering and dying in atonement for our sins and as the propitiation (Romans 3:24-25). Adam’s disobedience brought death. It separated man from God. Jesus’ obedience brought life and enabled man to be righteous so that he would no longer be separated from God.
Consequence of Law Verses Consequence of Grace – Verses 20-21.
Paul concludes in verses 20 and 21 with a contrast of the consequences of law verses the consequences of grace, “And the Law came in that the transgression might increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Those that still wanted to live according to the law must face the fact that the law can only condemn them. Its very existence promotes sinfulness more than righteousness for people are inherently sinful and the law only defines out for them new ways to be disobedient. Who wants to touch the door until there is a sign on it that says, “Wet Paint, Do not Touch?” The speed limit is set at 55 and most people drive 60 to 70. Change the speed limit to 65 and most people change with it and now drive 70 – 80. The law was never meant to be a means by which a person could establish themselves as righteous. Rather, it always has been a tutor (Galatians 3:24) to teach us the holiness of God and our unholiness so that we might cry out to Him for mercy. The law is not the problem. Our sinful nature is the problem.
We must praise the Lord that where sin increased, His grace increased even more, for it was out of that grace that we have been extended righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Why are people evil? Because of the sinful nature they inherit from Adam. They confirm it with their own actions. The only hope to break sin’s grip on our lives is being justified through faith in Jesus Christ. Are you under Adam’s condemnation or God’s grace?
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!