With Dale Ratzlaff
We continue our study in Romans 5:12-14
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—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.
This section of Romans contains what I believe to be one of the clearest teachings on what happened when Adam sinned. Let us take it one phrase at a time.
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 (v. 12).
This section is closely tied to Paul’s teaching on reconciliation. Without Adam’s sin there would be no need of reconciliation between God and man. The “just as…” starts a comparison to which Paul will come back in verse 18. “Through one man sin entered the world”. The “one man” is Adam who is named in verse 14. It does not say that Adam was the first sin. Rather it says that through Adam sin “entered the world”. We might take this as support for the fact that sin was in the universe before this world was created. This probably reflects the sin of Lucifer in his rebelling against God. “Entered” is aorist tense meaning that sin entered at a point of time and that point was Adam’s sin in the Garden of Eden.
And death through sin
Does “death” refer to physical death or spiritual death? God told Adam and Eve that they could eat of any tree in the garden, “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 will surely die” (Gen 2:17). Yet in Genesis 5:5 we find that Adam lived 930 and then died. This could lead one to conclude that Paul has reference to spiritual death. However, the context leads me to conclude that Paul means physical death as well as spiritual death. “And death through sin”. Here Paul shows cause and effect—death is the result of sin.
and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.
This phrase has been variously interpreted. Some see Adam’s sin as giving all his posterity a weakened physical nature prone to sin. Therefore all sinned by their own actions because of the debilitated physical nature and lack of self-control. I do not believe this is what Paul is teaching. Both “spread” and “sinned” are also in the aorist tense. Adams sinned—death spread—all sinned. These are linked together as one causative event. It is true that Adam’s sin resulted in our fallen, sinful natures to such an extent that we all fall into sin. However, Paul is showing that what “one man”—Adam—did that caused death to spread to all mankind will be offset by what “One Man”—Jesus—did that caused justification to be available to all men. Therefore, I hold that all mankind “sinned in Adam”. Paul has already shown that we are “justified in Christ”.
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 (v. 13).
Before I discovered the gospel and understood Paul’s theology, this verse was always a struggle for me. I used to fall back on Peter’s comment that Paul wrote some things hard to understand. I rewrote the above verses to read something like this: “for until the Ten Commandments were given to Moses sin was in the world. This had to be true I figured because the next phrase says that sin is not imputed where there is no law. Therefore the Ten Commandments were given in Eden.”
Now I understand two things I missed before. (1) It was Adam’s “one” sin that caused the problem. Adam is the head of “the condemned family of Adam” just as Christ is the head of “the justified family of Christ”. We will see as we study this section that both “condemnation” and “justification” are declarations that are imputed.
(2) The second thing I discovered about the sin of Adam is that our spirit was disconnected from God’s spirit. Immediately Adam and Eve were estranged from God and each other. As time went by the Genesis record states that.
Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually (Gen. 6:5).
It is not until we discover the new birth as taught in John 3 that we realize that our spirit’s MUST be born again—born from above.
When we realize that we are members of the condemned family of Adam, not based upon our own sin, but upon Adam’s—and not only that but when we understand that we are sinners in our own right because of our fallen nature which make our thoughts and actions have a tendency to run toward evil—then we realize our utterly helpless condition and our need of a Savior. Then we realize that His “one act of righteousness” moves us from the condemned family of Adam to the justified family of Christ with a regenerated spirit that can testify with God’s Spirit that we are indeed children of God.
Father, thank you for making yourself known to Paul and for revealing to him the marvels of what happened at the cross. Thank you that even though I was born in double sin—Adam’s and mine—you have revealed your gospel to me and I have believed. Now I am declared “righteous in Christ”.