This section of Scripture is both analogous and antithetical in comparing Adam to Christ. The only analogous part is how one man’s act affected many. The rest is a contrast regarding the great difference in the effect of each one’s act. Verses 12, 18 & 19 go together and 13-17 is a parenthetical thought so I added parentheses that are not in the Biblical text to show this; verses 20-21 compare law to grace.
“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— (13 for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 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.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. 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. 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.) 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. 20 The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 5:12-21) (A side point here is that just as Jesus was a true historical Man so is Adam or this would be comparing apples to oranges. Liberal theologians say Adam and Eve were just myths to tell a story and make a point.)
Paul by the Spirit says the same in 1 Corinthians 15:21-23: “For since [it was] through a man that death [came into the world, it is] also through a Man that the resurrection of the dead [has come].22 For just as [because of their union of nature] in Adam all people die, so also [by virtue of their union of nature] shall all in Christ be made alive.23 But each in his own rank and turn: Christ (the Messiah) [is] the firstfruits, then those who are Christ’s [own will be resurrected] at His coming.” Some liberal theologians have used Romans 5:15-19 and 1 Cor. 15:22-23 to teach universal salvation but note the phrases underlined in the verses above: “those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness”; “all in Christ” and “Christ’s own” define “the many” and “all” as those who are saved.
“When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned.” – Sin had already begun with the rebellion of Satan (Isa. 14; Ezek. 28) but it entered the world through man (Adam means man or mankind) as Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s one prohibition. Like Satan, they too wanted to become like God (Divine) and be independent of God versus submissive to God and dependent on Him for choosing good and evil. Man cannot know good from evil apart from God and His Word and Holy Spirit. Even Jesus, the only Perfect Man, depended on and submitted to God’s Word to defeat Satan’s lies when He was tempted to sin.
Here we see God’s view of sin as we see the enormous consequences of sin. Adam’s disobedience brought physical death (though delayed), spiritual death (immediate separation from God) and, unless we receive Christ before we die physically, eternal death – hell. (Heb. 9:27) Here we also see original sin (Psalm 51:5) which means all mankind is born with a sinful nature. Thus mankind sins because they are sinners. Contrary to pop psychology and liberal theologians and false religions, man is not basically good and certainly not Divine per the New Age movement. We also see imputed sin. The punishment of Adam’s sin was imputed to all mankind because Adam is the representative Man (federal head) of all mankind. God deals with this seeming injustice by imputing Jesus’ perfect righteousness to all who receive Him as Savior as seen later in the text.
The ripple effect of sins of commission and sins of omission today – No one ever sins in a vacuum. If we do what God says not to do or not do what God says to do then we hurt those around us even if we never see the damage we do. [“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you say it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilites, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all of our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.”]― C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory
13” For until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 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.” Adam disobeyed a specific command (law) to not eat the forbidden fruit. Later God gave the Mosaic Law, Ten Commandments with specific laws, and counted men’s sins against them when they broke these laws. Between Adam and the Mosaic Law man still sinned as evidenced by the fact that all men died but they did not break specific commandments. And as we see in verse 20, “The Law came in so that the transgression would increase.” The law was not given to save man but to show man his sin more clearly. In fact the law actually stimulates as seen in verse 20. Paul says the same in Romans 7:5, “For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death.” We will see later in this text and in 2 Corinthians 5:19 that because of Christ’s act on the cross God does not count men’s sins (trespasses) against those who trust Jesus for salvation. “That is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself not counting their trespasses against them.”
[“It is very important that we understand what Paul is not saying here, as well as what he is saying. Paul is not saying that we all sin because Adam sinned, though this is true. Paul is saying that we all sinned when Adam sinned. Paul is saying that we are all guilty of sin, in Adam, and thus we fall under the divine death penalty. The period of time between Adam and Moses best demonstrates this, because those who died during this time period did not have their own sins imputed to them. The point then is this: Adam’s sin and its consequences included and involved the entire human race. This does not really sound fair, does it? Come on, admit it. This sounds, at first, like a terrible injustice. Why should we suffer because of Adam? Does the curse of sin on the entire human race, due to the act of one man, trouble us? Then we must press on to the second link which Paul makes in our text. Not only is there a link between Adam’s sin and mankind’s universal guilt, there is a link between Adam and Christ. In verse 14, Paul informs us that Adam “is a type of Him who was to come.” Adam is a type of Christ.” https://bible.org/seriespage/9-curse-cure-romans-512-21]
BAD NEWS: SUMMARY -Sin entered the world through one man; death entered through sin; sin and death spread to all men; and death reigns over all – physical death, spiritual death (for those who reject Jesus) and eternal death (for those who do not receive Jesus as Savior before they die – hell).
BUT – THE GOOD NEWS! Now the analogy of Adam and Christ changes to an antithetical contrast between Adam and Christ. “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. 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. 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. 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.” The effect/gain/blessing of Christ’s act/work on the cross and resurrection (for those who receive Him) far exceeds the effect/loss/curse of the sin of Adam’s act/sin in the garden.
[“The Two Adams – Adam is a “figure” or TYPE of Him that was to come, namely Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:14). Adam is a type of Christ. In 1 Corinthians 15:45 Jesus Christ is called “Adam” (“the last Adam”) and Christ is also called “the second man” in contrast to the first man, Adam (1 Cor. 15:47). As we compare these two men there are both similarities and differences: http://www.middletownbiblechurch.org/romans/2adams.htm]
The first man Adam (1 Cor.15:45)
The last Adam (1 Cor.15:45)
|“Was made a living soul” (1 Cor.15:45)
(Adam was given life-Gen. 2:7).
|“Was made a quickening spirit” (1 Cor.15:45)
(Christ gives life-John 5:21,25; 6:33 etc.).
|“Natural” (1 Cor.15:46)||“Spiritual” (1 Cor.15:46)|
|ORIGIN–“of the earth” (1 Cor.15:47)||ORIGIN–“from heaven” (1 Cor.15:47)|
|Men reflect Adam (1 Cor.15:49 and see Gen. 5:3).||Saved men can and shall reflect Christ (1 Cor.15:49 and see Col. 3:10; Eph.4:24; Rom. 8:29; 2 Cor. 3:18; 1 John 3:2; etc.).|
|“Dead in Adam” (1 Cor.15:22)||“Alive in Christ” (1 Cor.15:22)|
|Adam is the Head of the Old Creation.||Jesus Christ is the Head of the New Creation (2 Cor. 5:17; Eph. 2:10).|
|Adam was a representative man (Romans 5), and he acted on behalf of the whole human race.||Christ was a representative Man (Romans 5), and He acted on behalf of the whole human race.|
|Adam performed one act which had tremendous consequences.||Christ performed one act which had even greater consequences.|
|Adam’s act was a sinful act (Rom. 5:12, 15,16,17,18).||Christ‘s act was a righteous act (Rom. 5:18–“the righteous act”–see NASB).|
|Adam’s act was an act of disobedience, in eating the forbidden fruit (Rom. 5:19; and see Genesis 2:17; 3:6).||Christ’s act was an act of obedience, in dying on the cross (Romans 5:19 and see Phil. 2:8).|
|Here is what Adam’s one act produced:DEATH ( Rom. 5:12,14,15)
JUDGMENT (Rom. 5:16,18)
CONDEMNATION (Rom. 5:16,18)
|Here is what Christ’s one act produced:LIFE (Rom. 5:17,18,21)
THE FREE GIFT (Rom. 5:15,16,17,18)
GRACE (Rom. 5:15,17,20,21)
JUSTIFICATION (Rom. 5:16,18,19)
RIGHTEOUSNESS (Rom. 5:17,19,21)
REIGNING (Rom .5:17; compare verse 21)
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.” Commentators disagree on the meaning of the phrase “made righteous” as some say it means the same as justification – declared righteous – forgiven (positional righteousness) and others say it means our new nature in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17) and the outworking of that in practical righteousness, i.e., living more righteously. The latter seems to fit and flow into the entire next section of Romans 6-8; the sanctification process. “Thank God! Once you were slaves of sin, but now you wholeheartedly obey this teaching we have given you. 18 Now you are free from your slavery to sin, and you have become slaves to righteous living.” (Romans 6:17-18) From other passages of Scripture we see that no believer is sinless (1 John 1:8-9) but through our new nature and the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit we sin less.
“The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 5:12-21) As Paul says in Romans 7:12, the law is “holy righteous and good” but its presence makes man more aware of his sin, stimulates sin, and thus can serve to drive us to Christ as Savior and to the power of the Holy Spirit to obey God’s moral law because we now love and desire to please the One Who loves us so. “I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. 22 For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, 23 but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin. 8:1 Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3 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, 4 so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 7:21-8:4)
“But where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” – God’s grace (unmerited favor and enabling power) is far more powerful than sin. “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age…” (Titus 2:11-12)
The reign of death is marked by sin and condemnation (under God’s wrath now and unless saved, under God’s eternal wrath forever – hell). But the reign of life is freedom from the bondage of sin, righteousness (now in this life) and eternal life which begins when we are saved. It is a new quality of life, not just everlasting life.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION AND APPLICATION http://bibleviews.com/romans.html
1. What brought death to all men?
2. Do we die because of Adam’s sin or our sins?
3. Is sin dependent on the law? See Romans 4:15.
4. How was men’s sin during the time from Adam to Moses different from Adam’s sin?
5. Why did death occur during the Adam to Moses time period?
6. Did Adam’s sin cause all men to die or did he introduce into the human race a nature which causes all men to sin?
7. How is Adam a type of Christ? See I Cor. 15:22. Compare the effects of each. Is there a contrast in this type?
8. How does our gain through Christ compare with our loss through the fall of Adam?
9. How is it possible for one Man to atone for the sins of the whole world?
10. How much emphasis is there on “free gift”? What is the effect of law? See Romans 3:20.
11. Does law or grace give eternal life? For by grace you have been saved by faith in Christ Jesus.