Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned–for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is not law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought judtification. For if, because of one man’s trespass death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 5:12-21
That’s Romans 5:12-21. I got home last night from Bible study and had to write up my notes and make notes on my notes to capture it all. I knew once I slept I’d have lost most of it, so I stayed up working for two and a half hours just regurgitating the passage we’d just discussed. This isn’t all of our discussion, but in writing, the rest seemed like rabbit trails we didn’t take the time to flesh out and find Scripture. I think there were other thoughts that were good, but I didn’t want to throw out some idea without having scriptural references. Here you go!
v12 Sin came in through one man. Death came to that one man through sin. Death spreads to all men through the sin of one man. How? Paul says “all sinned.” That’s the aorist tense in the Greek. It’s a past tense we don’t distinguish in English, but it’s usually explained as denoting a once-for-all past event, a single undivided event. That’s what Paul’s saying. The aorist tense with the use of “all” is unusual. Paul suggests that Adam’s trespass was a single undivided event in which “all sinned.” Not only Adam, but all men and women. And so we have an equal share with Adam in the sin and death that came into the world through him.
13-14 Sin was in the world before the law was given… Since Adam’s trespass, men have been in bondage to sin. We see it in Cain, in the time of Noah, at the tower of Babylon, in Jacob’s deception to receive the birthright, all the way up to Moses.
Death reigned from Adam to Moses… They all died, and death came through sin, so it is clear that sin was in the world.
13 …but sin is not counted where there is no law. Without specific commandments, there is nothing to explicitly disobey. As Paul wrote in 3:20, through the law comes knowledge of sin. However, even without the law, men and women are prideful, rebellious, and idolatrous. That is the nature of sin. The law serves as a mirror to show us our sin and as a shadow of the one to come who would fulfill it. It is convincing and convicting evidence that we cannot uphold the standard.
The Free Gift
This is no competition. Watch how Jesus clobbers sin and death.
5:15 if many died… much more have the grace of God and the free gift… abounded for many
In spite of the death that has spread to all men, the grace of God and the free gift of righteousness have overflowed much greater than the death that tries to claim souls. The free gift is righteousness, salvation, eternal life, God himself. Death is beaten. Death will be swallowed up in victory (1 Cor 15:54).
16 Judgment following one trespass brought condemnation; the free gift following many trespasses brought justification.
One trespass, Adam’s original sinful, disobedient grasp for self-exaltation, was followed by judgment, which brought condemnation on the whole race. We are all in Adam, and so all in sin. And in the judgment was God’s justice. It was merited. Justice is about equality—the right and equal response to our sin. And then there must have been, are, and will be very, very many trespasses, from the time of Adam to the time of Christ and beyond. So in light of all trespasses—all sinful words, thoughts, deeds, in light of all idolatry and rebellion that reside in every human heart since Adam, following all of that came the free gift through the act of Jesus’ death and resurrection, which brought justification. Completely unmerited. What an abundance of grace!
17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man…
Because of Adam’s choice, death reigns as a tyrant. Unforgiving. Unmerciful. We all die. All have sinned (there’s that aorist again!) and fall short of the glory of God (and that’s continuing up to present). We are in bondage to sin, and the wages of sin is death. We are slaves.
But! If through Adam, death reigns, what can we anticipate from Christ’s righteousness? The inverse seems to be that life reigns through Christ. But watch how cool this is.
…much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.
Note the difference in the subject of that sentence. With Jesus as our representative, we will reign. The implication of that is overwhelming. Sin’s kingship makes us slaves. Christ’s kingship makes us kings. We no longer share in Adam’s death and condemnation. We will share in Christ’s inheritance and reign in eternal life. What a huge contrast!
See how great our God is! Every ounce of sin ever has been overcome by one act of righteousness (18), by one man’s obedience (19). That act of righteousness and obedience was Jesus’ death on the cross (Phil 2:8). Yes, the wages of sin is death. However, the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom 6:23). Jesus took our wages to redeem us and buy us back to life. He is that rich in mercy.