About Jesus    Steve Sweetman

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Death Through Adam, Life Through Christ

(ch. 5:12-21)


This section of Romans is a matter of contrasting Adam with Jesus.  All that Adam brought to the world is contrasted with what Jesus brought to the world.   


In verse 12 Paul speaks about sin and death.  He says that "sin entered the world through one man named Adam, and death ... came to all men."  In Genesis 2:15 God put man in the garden.  God commanded the man by saying he was free to eat the fruit of any tree in the garden, with one exception.  He was not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and, when he would eat from that tree, he would die. 


Notice that the command was given to the man, not to the woman.  The woman was deceived by the serpent.  The man was not deceived, but simply disobeyed the command that was given to him, as Paul states in 1Timothy 2:14.


Note also the way the command begins. "You are free to eat from any treeÖ"  Before God tells the man not to eat from the one tree, He gives him freedom to eat from all the other trees.  God told man that he was free.  God created mankind to be free in all aspects of life.  We can only speculate the details of this freedom.


It is important to understand that sin entered the world through Adam, not Eve.  Yes, they both disobeyed, but the command was given to Adam, not Eve.  He was the one responsible to make sure the command was obeyed. 


Sin entered the world through Adam as Paul says here.  For this reason, I tend to believe that the sin nature is passed on from one generation to the next through the man, through the seed of the man, and not the woman.  I won't get into it here, but this is important when thinking of the virgin birth.  There was no human male in the birth process of Jesus.  Joseph was not involved, and therefore the sinful nature was not passed on to Jesus.      


In the day this command would be broken, man would die.  Man did break the command and he died in at least three ways.  Although physical death did not result immediately, man did die.  Another point to how man died when Adam sinned was that God declared him and all of mankind as dead.  Refer to my opening remarks on chapter 6 for further details about this.    


Man, meaning, men and women, also died socially.  This is seen in the covering of their naked bodies.  Before the act of disobedience took place man and the woman lived in a state of naked innocent harmony.  They were free in their nakedness, not having to wear restrictive clothing.  They were free in their nakedness to enjoy each other without any inhibitions.  Once Adam took the first forbidden bite, both Adam and Eve lost the joy of their innocence.  They felt embarrassed for the first time in their lives.  As a result, they covered their naked bodies from one another.  It was as if a heavy dark depressing cloud suddenly enveloped them.  The whole dynamics of their relationship changed in one brief moment, interrupting their perfect relationship.  Mankind died socially.


Man also died spiritually.  Adam and Eve hid themselves from God, as if that were possible.  God found them in their hiding place and at that moment they knew they had lost the close relationship that they once had with their Creator.  From that point on, all who were born were born separate and apart from God. 


Man died physically, socially and spiritually.  Subsequently all children born to Adam and Eve inherited the same condition. We all are born into a world of sin and death.  We are all born being socially and spiritually dead, and at some point, we die physically. 


I don't believe anyone really knows the change that took place in creation, especially in Adam and Eve, when Adam took that first forbidden bite.  I believe the molecular structure of all things changed in one split second.  There is no way that we can begin to imagine what life and creation was like prior to Genesis 3.  


It did not take long for sin to show its ugly head.  The first murder came with Adam and EveĎs children.  We have been killing each other ever since.  Then, Adam's son Cain defied God in his heart and offered an impure sacrifice. The story of our sinful nature continues to this very day.  We refer our own sacrifices instead of the ones God wants us to give.  In short, we prefer a human, man made, religion instead of God's religion.


Man took the rest of Godís creation down with him as seen in Genesis 3.  According to Romans 8:22, all of creation groans in pain, waiting for the day when it, with the believers, will find ultimate redemption.  Manís disobedience disrupted all relationships.  Man and God were now separated.  Human relations deteriorated into factions and fighting.  Even the animals came to be in an adversarial relationship with one another. Plants also would experience death along with the rest of us.   All of creation died, and, as we see in the book of Revelation, there will be a new creation without sin.     


This is the background to what Paul is saying here in verse 12.  Because of one manís sin, death came into the world.  Because of one manís sin all sin, resulting in our death. 


The words "all sin" have been debated for centuries.  There are a couple  ways of looking at these words.  It concerns the subject that theologians call original sin.  Adam did sin.  There's no doubt about that.  Some suggest that because Adam sinned, everyone inherits a sin nature by birth.  That means we sin because we are sinners.  Others say that we donít inherit a sinful nature at birth.  We become sinners when we commit our first sin.  I've always believed, and still do, that we sin because we are sinners.  We sin because we are born with a sinful nature.


There's another aspect to us being sinners and it concerns the word "all sin" that we read in verse 12.  As soon as Adam sinned, God declared that every human being that would ever live as being a sinner.  Another way to put it is that God views us all through the lens of Adam.  This is important to know because the reverse is also true.  God sees the believer through the lens of Jesus.  He lumps all believers into Jesus.  This is what the term "in Christ" means.  Even though we still sin, God in one sense of the word, sees us as sinless because we are in Christ.  The same is true with the Adamic lens.  Even though we weren't yet born, and, even though we had not sinned, God viewed you and I as sinners.   I will comment more on this in my introductory statement on Romans 6.    




Paul says in verse 13 and 14 that before the law was given, meaning, the Law of Moses, sin existed in the world.  That is quite evident.  Then Paul says that where there is no law, sin could not be accounted for.  What he is saying here is that when a person sinned prior to the given of any law, that sin could not be written into the heavenly record of the one sinning.      


What Paul says here is hard to understand.  Many Bible commentators really do not comment on this.  He says that the sins committed after Adam and before the giving of the Law of Moses were not held to the account of those sinning.  He pretty well says the same thing in Romans 4:15 where he says that where there is no law there is no transgression of the law.  It's easy to understand.  If there is no law that tells you not to commit adultery, then you can't be charged with committing adultery, even though you commit adultery. 


The natural question arises.  "What about Sodom and Gomorrah "?  Those two cities were punished for their sins.  What about all of mankind who died in the flood of Noah's day?  They were punished for their sins.  These are the hard questions that many can't seem to answer. 


So why did God destroy the world with a flood?  Genesis 6:5 tells us that God was so upset with the wickedness and evil He saw in humans that He decided to wipe them off the face of the earth.  Genesis 18:20 states that the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was so great that God had to do something about it.  Did those in the world in Noah's day know they were sinning?  Did those in Sodom and Gomorrah know they were sinning?  There was no written law stating that these people were sinning, or so Paul said.  That being said, as we see in Romans 1:18 and onward, that both creation and the human conscience does witness to the fact that there is a God, and therefore, that might imply that there was some knowledge of sin, even without the written law.  For this reason, God judged Sodom and Gomorrah and all mankind in Noah's day.  This is the best I can do at the moment to help solve the questions we have about this verse.              


The last phrase of verse 14 tells us that Adam was the pattern of the one who should come.  The one who should come is Jesus.  Adam, that is, pre-fall Adam, pre-sinful Adam, was prophetic of Jesus.   This introduces Paul's next point.  Again, what Paul is doing here is comparing Adam with Jesus. 


In verse 15 Paul says that the gift is not like the trespass. The gift he speaks of here is the gift of one being justified by faith.  I would think the trespass here is the sin of Adam.  Some might suggest it's our individual sin, but I'm not sure the context suggests that.


Paul's point is simple in verse 15.  If all mankind died because of one man's sin, then God's grace, which Paul has said earlier, is more abundant than sin, it is able to give the gift of justification to all men.  


In verse 16 Paul contrasts Adam with Jesus, and the gift of justification with sin.  He says the gift of God is not like the result of one man's sin.  The man in question here is obviously Adam.  Paul says that judgment and condemnation followed just one sin, Adam just sinned one time and judgment and condemnation came on all of mankind.  Unlike all mankind suffering because of one sin, justification is being offered after thousand and thousands of sins.  Again, Paul makes the contrast here between Adam's one sin and Jesus' gift of justification.


The contrast continues in verse 17.  Paul says that if death ruled over mankind because of one sin Adam committed, and Adam being human, how much will life rule in the lives of those who accept the provision of grace and righteousness that comes through Jesus.  The point is made that just one sin brought death to all of creation. 


The point is also made that life is available to those who receive God's grace.  I must point out that this grace is offered to all mankind but it is only effective in the lives of those who receive it, and, those who receive it only receive by trusting their lives to the Lord Jesus Christ.  There are some who believe in the doctrine of Universalism because of this passage.  They say that all have been condemned because of Adam but all are saved because of Jesus, but, the text says that only those who receive this gift of justification and righteous are saved.  Thus, Universalism is a false doctrine.  It is especially so when you take the rest of the New Testament into consideration.                 

We should ask what life Paul is talking about here.  I believe we can safely say that Paul is speaking of eternal life at this point.  I would also believe that he would be speaking of a spiritual life here on earth that elevates us from the mundane.  That being said, we're not talking about a life of material prosperity here.  If that were so, we'd have a problem because Paul did not live such a life.  He would not have lived what he preached. 


The point here is that death, including eternal death, has no more rule over us.  We as believers will live forever in paradise, paradise meaning, heaven until the days of the new heaven and the new earth.


In verse 18 Paul still continues to say the same thing.  Adam trespassed and condemnation came to all men.  Notice here that Paul does not say many men, but all men.  So too, the act of righteousness by Jesus has brought justification to all man.  Again, I must point out the false doctrine known as Universalism.  It's clear that Adam's sin condemned us all.  It's also clear that Jesus' act of righteousness has provided for the justification of all men, but in this case, that all are all those who have received the gift of righteousness by faith as we saw in verse 17. 


Some theologians speak of what is called headship in this regard.  We are all sons and daughters of Adam, so we are all under the curse of Adam's sin.  When it comes to Jesus, we are not all under the headship of Jesus.  Only those who have handed their lives over to Jesus are under His headship and, thus, only they have received the gift of righteousness. 


In verse 19 Paul doesn't use the word "all".  He uses the word "many".  My only thought here is that we must understand the word "many" in context, and, the context being the last verse where he uses the word "all".  Therefore, I believe that "many" in this verse actually means "all". 


In verse 20 to the end of this chapter Paul speaks of the Law of Moses again, as he has in previous chapters.   He says that the Law was added so sin might increase.  This is another reason why God gave the Law.  Paul gives various reasons for the Lawís existence in his writings.  This is just another reason.  You might say that God saw the sin in man and said to Himself, "if man is going to sin, I will give him Laws that will make him sin even more.  The more man sins, the more I can love him and show my grace to him."  To us that may be a funny way of looking at things.  We might think God would want man to sin less, but according to this verse that is not the case.  He wanted man to sin more.  Why did He want man to sin more?   The more man sinned, the more chances He had to show grace towards man.  God knew that man was like children.  If you tell children not to do something, they are apt to do that which you have told them not to do.  It is hard to resist the command.  Godís grace is more clearly seen when there is more sin to compare it to His grace.  As Paul states here, where sin is, grace is more. 


Paul introduces the term 'eternal life" for the first time in verse 21.  Death reigned because of Adamís sin, but now eternal life has been made available through Jesus Christ.  There is eternal life for those who trust in Jesus, for those who have been declared righteous in the sight of God.


We should know that every man and every woman will live forever.  That being said, when the term "eternal life" is used in the New Testament, it's used in the sense of people living in heaven and then on the new earth.  Thos who fail to receive God's gift of being declared righteous will live forever in the Lake of Fire. 


Paul says that grace reigns, or, grace rules.  We presently live in what theologians call the age of grace.  It is so named because even though we live in sin, grace is being offered to us, right up to the point of the of the return of Jesus.


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