Romans 5:12-21
  • Register

12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned— - Romans 5:12


"Therefore" Usually when you see the word therefore it's in relation to what was just written. In this case it could be pointing all the way back to Romans 3:23 which states "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God". In this context it flows. It's as if Paul got excited about the gospel and was compelled to share it in light of what he was getting at in Romans 3. God of course meant it there, and many good preachers are compelled in like fashion who bring their message back to the gospel, that is after all the good news! So with Paul seemingly doing this because of the wonderfulness of the gospel and the riches of grace in Christ (Eph. 2:7, Phil. 4:19, Psa. 145:8) I'm encouraged when we rabbit trail this way too!


"just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin" When Adam sinned he sinned for the whole human race. Man is made up of three parts, body, soul, and spirit (1 Thess. 5:23, Rom. 12:1-2, Gen. 2:7, Heb. 4:12). The day Adam ate from the tree (Gen. 3:16) in which God had commanded him not too (Gen. 2:17); that day Adam's spirit died instantly and his body entered a state of decay being separated from the source of life, God Himself (Gen. 2:7, Gen. 3:22-24), and thus sin entered into the world (Rom. 8:22) and marked the beginning of death's reign (Rom. 3:14). "And so death spread to all men" Just as Adam became a sinful creature so did his children. Because Adam became a sinful creature, spiritually dead, separated from God, so did his children. That which is born of the flesh is flesh (John 3:6a). Adam couldn't pass down any fellowship with God because he had lost it. Therefore everyone born of Adam thereafter was born in his likeness, sinful (Gen. 8:21, Psa. 51:5, 58:3), spiritually stillborn (Col. 2:13a), children of wrath (Eph. 2:3), and separated from God (Isa. 59:1-2). "because all sinned". Death continues to spread because sin continues to spread (Rom. 3:23). By this man is naturally inclined to sin and because we have this propensity to sin, we sin. It's our default. No amount of rules or laws would be successful in preventing us from sinning because such rules rely on the power of the flesh for them to be successful.


For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, - Romans 8:3


This makes it all the more amazing that Christ, though He was born in the same likeness of sinful flesh like we are (Rom. 8:3 yet He led a sinless life! (Heb. 4:15). Given the nature of this great feat, we should not think it was easy (Matt. 26:39, Luke 22:44), I mean, since he had the same sinful flesh that we have, imagine you going your entire life without sinning and how difficult that would be for you. (I'm confident I couldn't go a day in the flesh without sinning if you consider the standard set in the bible, Matt. 5:48, 1 Pet. 1:16). Furthermore, Jesus was tempted well beyond what we'll likely ever encounter (Matt. 4:1-11). To have a legion of angels on stand by to fight for you (Matt. 26:53) and yet willingly choose the cross (John 10:18), and all that without becoming embittered toward man but rather praying God for forgiveness for those hammering the nails through His hand (Luke 23:34)... An unmatched feat indeed (Rom. 3:23), did I mention what He gave up in heaven to do this? I could go on and on.


13 for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. - Romans 5:13


In other words, sin was still in the world it just wasn't identified for it's utterly sinful state until the law came and exposed it (Rom. 7:13). Nevertheless, even before the law sin was still in the world having started with Adam (v.12) and thus were it's effects such as death (v.14). "sin is not imputed when there is no law". Sin wasn't held against men or imputed to men until the law came which made known to men what was detestable to God. Though sin wasn't imputed, it didn't change the fact that these things were still detestable to God nor did it change the inherent condition of man received through Adam.


14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. - Romans 5:14


"Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses". The inherent condition remained though sin had not yet been exposed. This is proven by the fact that men died in this era even though sin had not been imputed. They were essentially suffering from the result of Adam's sin. "even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam". Adam did have a law and it had one rule. Don't eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:17). That was it and he blew it. He could do anything else he wanted and remain spiritually alive, connected with God and in fellowship with Him. God gave Adam plenty of other trees to eat from freely (Gen. 2:16) but Adam who was the representative for all mankind sinned by breaking the only rule that God laid out and in doing so ushered in the reign of death over all mankind. Physical death came as the result of the spiritual death that occurred that day. "who is a type of Him who was to come". There is a dangerous doctrine that is taught by some including Jehovah's witnesses which state that Adam's sin only effected himself. This is not taught in scripture and what's dangerous about it is that it challenges the necessity of righteousness that comes on the basis of faith which Paul just spent 5 chapters showing us is the only way (and many other scriptures). The idea that Adam's sin only effected himself takes away the truth that Paul points out in verse 19, "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." To say that Adam's sin only effected Adam is to say that Christ's righteousness only effected Christ. If I cannot be made a sinner through Adam than I cannot be made righteous through Christ. Adam started innocent (Ecc. 7:29, Gen. 1:26) and blew as the representative for all mankind. Christ started innocent and was successful for all mankind. The two operate similarly which makes Adam a "type" of Him who was to come. If you nullify this truth regarding Adam then you nullify this truth regarding Christ. If this were the case then we'd have to establish our own righteousness, and we know from scripture that our righteousness (the good deeds we do) is at best filthy garments before God (Isa. 64:6). If we had to establish our own righteousness we'd be left out in the cold. The only garment acceptable to God is that of Jesus Christ (Isa. 61:10, Matt. 22:11-13).


15 But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. - Romans 5:15


"But the free gift is not like the transgression". Paul's analogy is one of contrast. Though the effects of Adam and Christ are universal which makes Adam a Prototype of Christ, the result is one of stark contrast. The transgression brought universal ruin on the human race. The free gift brings a universal blessing (v.18). "Much more". A theme that runs through this section. God's grace is infinitely greater for good than is Adam's sin for evil. If Adam's actions (who is not God) has the power to bring condemnation to all men, then how much more capable is Jesus Christ (who is God) who can in His grace bring righteousness to all men! "Many". The same greek word pollous (Strong's #4183) is used for both instances of many here meaning all men. The fact that God's grace abounds to all men is proven by the fact this is the same word "many" is used to show all died by the transgression of Adam. To argue that one doesn't apply to all men would equally argue that the other doesn't apply to all men as is backed by verse 18. Either the both do or they both don't.


16 The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification. - Romans 5:16


Condemnation arose from one transgression but the free gift on the other hand has taken all the transgressions (including the sins of succeeding generations) and made justification for all of us.


17 For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. - Romans 5:17


"Much more" Christ's accomplishments for all of mankind not only nullified the accomplishments of the first type (being death through Adam), but much more for those who receive God's grace and free gift of righteousness will not only live but will actually reign in life through Jesus Christ. "Receive", consider this invitation of God to receive the free gift to reign in life through Jesus Christ.


20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me. 21 He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. - Revelations 3:20-21


Amazingly this is a free gift for the taking. If you want it, take it, if you don't want it, don't take it... God doesn't force Himself on you. God is so great, His love is so wonderful, that God makes an earnest appeal to men to take His blessing (Deut. 30:19). He doesn't have too, for Him to stoop to our level and even plead (2 Cor. 5:20) is showing extreme gentleness and humbleness of heart on behalf of God (Matt. 11:29).


18 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. 19 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.  - Romans 5:18-19


Again you see the similarities between the two types. Though the results are a stark contrast. "All men" The same Greek word "pantas" (Strong's #3956) is used here for both instances of "all men" in verse 18 similarly "many" in verse 19, like before, is the same Greek word for both instances. The word Pantas is all inclusive meaning all, every, each part of. So nobody is excluded. If someone were to argue that justification of life is not available to all men they would have to argue that Adam's transgression didn't result in condemnation to all men. The fact is both have been applied to all men. Jesus paid it all, not just for those that would accept it but for everyone (1 John 2:2, 1 Tim. 4:10). Paul actually stated it was because of that he was compelled to labor.


10 For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers. - 1 Timothy 4:10


Paul knew about this justification of life through Jesus Christ that was paid forward that God wanted all men to believe and receive.


who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time. - 1 Timothy 2:4-6


20 The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, - Romans 5:20


"The Law came in so that the transgression would increase" The difference between sin and transgression is subtle but there is a difference. Sin is doing what is detestable in the eyes of God whether or not you know it. A transgression is doing what's detestable in the eyes of God having been, to some degree, made aware of His disposition towards it. Sin is committing the act of evil. Transgression is committing the act of evil aware of the offense it would cause. Before the law sin was in the world (Rom. 5:13-14), but the law came and made known God's standards against sin thus making aware to men that what they what they were doing already (sinning) was a transgression or an offense against God (Psa. 51:4). Prior to the coming of the law sin and death were already running rampant (v.14) but when the law came which made known to man God's standards, transgression increased, for prior to the coming of the law sin is not imputed (v.13). Once the law came however which made more accurately known what God requires of man, man who was sinning, was now sinning aware that what they were doing was an offense to God, thus the coming of the law ushered in an increase of transgressions.


Jamie and I have a new English Mastiff puppy. Like all new puppies he loved to chew on things, the couches, tables, us, our guests, our other 15 year old black lab.. Do we like it when he does these The couches are new, the other dog is to old to fight back, the guest are trying to be polite and the puppy's teeth are very sharp that he cuts us when he bites us. Are we mad at the 10 week old pup when he does this to us? No. Why? Because at 10 weeks he doesn't know any better nor have we had time yet having just adopted him to teach him those things are wrong. Does that mean I cheerfully accept it when he tortures my guests, damaged my couch, hurt my long time black lab companion or made my wife and I's hands bloody? Of course I don't. But he didn't know any better so I took no offense. However as the dog has grown we've spent time gently training him on what's ok and what is not. (He's a surprisingly smart dog and learns very quick). For the most part he's potty trained and doesn't destroy anything, not even his own dog toys though he plays with them at length. One thing though, probably the thing Jamie and I hate the most is when he attacks our 15 year old lab... She's so old she can hardly walk and the puppy bites her legs, bites her back, bites her ears, and all the lab can do is bark and take it which hurts our heart. We so want them to get along. Now granted he's not being mean, he's being playful, but one thing I've noticed is that now after some time training him he watches us when he goes in for an attack on the lab to see if we're gonna stop him. If he saw us watching him, he would sometimes divert his attack. So I've come to learn he knows better. Knowing that he knows it's wrong to do it, now it does make me upset when he attacks the lab. Once I did not take offense at this action, but the more he's aware that we don't like him torturing the poor old girl the greater I'm upset when he opts to do it.


The purpose of the law was to point out sin, to make known that which we were doing is detestable and contrary to the nature of God (1 John 4:8) and what He desires for us (Jer. 9:24). It was to expose sin to be sinful (Rom. 7:13), to make known the very cause of death that results from sin and thereby lead us or tutor us to the type of Him that was to come, Jesus Christ! (Gal. 3:24). The law was never intended to impart life but rather it was to expose sin and death. Jesus imparts life! Like Jesus told Nicodemus, "unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." (John 3:3) which Jesus points out is being born of the Spirit (John 3:6) and thus being for the first time spiritually alive (since in Adam we were spiritually stillborn), something only done by the Spirit. The law cannot do this nor was it intended too, but rather it was given to make known our transgression and the reality of our dire situation and thereby direct us to Him who can! As it is written:


19 Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed would come to whom the promise had been made. 20 Now a mediator is not for one party only; whereas God is only one. 21 Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God? May it never be! For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law. 22 But the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. - Galatians 3:19-22


"Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that..." Imagine if I never let my puppy know what displeases me or worse, imagine if I never let my puppy know that what he was doing was self destructive, that if he continues chewing that electrical cord that it could kill him. Imagine if God never let us know we were in a dire situation?


Many modern day people carry this notion that as long as they do more good than bad they will get into heaven. This same mindset was ingrained in many people during biblical times too. People often weighed the misfortune of others to indicate God's disapproval of that person (Job) or their parents (the blind man, John 9:2) but what's implied there is that others not enduring such misfortunes have the approval or favor of God (cf. Matt. 5:45). This was the mindset the Pharisees were entrenched in too (Rom. 2:17-3:20). This however was not the purpose of the law but rather it was intended to "shut up everyone under sin" and expose this fallacy that anyone has earned the favor of God or that the law, even if they followed it, would somehow impart to them life.


32 For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all. - Romans 11:32


The law was given to get people out of this notion that their works would ever merit God's favor; that it would ever be a solution to their problem of being spiritually stillborn since the law does not make one born again (John 3:7) i.e. impart life (Gal. 3:21). This mindset is still active by many in the church today. I see brothers and sisters in Christ not sure if they've done enough good to merit God's favor. They feel like they haven't yet earned His favor or they worry they've somehow lost it... yet grace earned is not grace (Rom. 11:6). Undeserved favor earned is no longer undeserved. You can't receive it on the basis of works, neither can you lose it on the basis or omission of works. That's what's beautiful about the 2nd half of Romans 5:20.


"Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more," You cannot out sin the grace of God. You cannot extend beyond His reach and you cannot fall beyond His love. Not only is this a true statement, that Grace abounds, but the fact is, if it doesn't we are sunk because it's only if grace abounds that we have a Way into heaven, that we have a restored relationship with the Father (John 14:6). This is why we can always, even completely unprepared, come before the throne of grace boldly in time of need (Heb. 4:16). It's only if the 2nd type was "much more" than the first type that we have victory. We have victory because He had victory! In Christ we share in the victory only He has earned, we receive the righteousness only He accomplished (2 Cor. 5:21). When we enjoy that victory we are testifying to all that Christ did it! God delights in us delighting in Him and His accomplishments! (Psalm 37:4).


21 so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. - Romans 5:21


The only way verse 21 can be possible is if verse 20 is true. In order for grace to reign it has be be more powerful than sin, and God's grace is!


God is not surprised at your sin, He knows the fallen nature that befell mankind through Adam. He knows we inherited a sinful nature so He sent Jesus Christ to condemn sin in the flesh (2 Cor. 5:21, Rom. 8:3) and on that cross He conquered sin and death for all mankind. Death has lost! Christ has won! Death has been disarmed!


24 But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power. - Acts 2:24


55 O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; 57 but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. - 1 Corinthians 15:55-57


As we wrap up this chapter I would like to share a synopsis written by Chuck Smith in his book "The Gospel According to Grace" (which this and his audio sermons have helped greatly throughout this study).


"Thank God for the abounding grace! One version translates verse 20 as "Where sin did abound, grace overflowed." We seem to have great difficulty accepting the grace of God. We're always trying to give God a reason to love us, accept us, or forgive us. But God loves, accepts, and forgives those who are miserable, rotten, and without merit. All we must do is cast ourselves upon Him and cry, "God, be merciful to me a sinner." To him who simply believes, God imputes his faith for righteousness (Romans 4:5). God accounts me just as righteous as His own dear Son."


If you're interested, I found new meaning in the worship song titled "Lord Reign In Me" and I would encourage you to listen to it and let's praise our heavenly Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:3).


Book Studies

Theological Studies

Study Series

The Gospel of Salvation



Drop Me a Line

Have some feedback, insight, questions, comments, prayer requests, etc? Maybe you just want to share what God is doing in your life (I love praise reports), or maybe you can relate to some of the things here and need an ear. I'd love to hear from you!