ROMANS 5:12-21 (1)
(from a transcript of a sermon preached on 5/26/02 at Sovereign Redeemer Assembly)
Please turn in your Bibles to Genesis 2. I'll be reading verses 7 through 9 and then verses 16 and 17:
Genesis 2: (7) And Jehovah God formed the man [out of] dust from the ground, and blew into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. (8) And Jehovah God planted a garden in Eden to the east; and He put the man whom He had formed there. (9) And out of the ground Jehovah God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food. The Tree of Life [was] also in the middle of the garden; also the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. ... (16) And Jehovah God commanded the man, saying, Eating you may eat of every tree in the garden; (17) but of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil you may not eat, for in the day that you eat of it, dying you shall die.
Now to chapter 3, and I'll be reading the entire chapter:
Genesis 3: (1) And the serpent was cunning above every animal of the field which Jehovah God had made. And he said to the woman, [Is it] true that God has said, You shall not eat from any tree of the garden? (2) And the woman said to the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden, (3) but of the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden, God has said, You shall not eat of it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die. (4) And the serpent said to the woman, Dying you shall not die, (5) for God knows that in the day you eat of it, even your eyes shall be opened, and you shall be as God, knowing good and evil. (6) And the woman saw that the tree [was] good for food, and that it [was] pleasant to the eyes, and the tree [was] desirable to make [one] wise. And she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. (7) And the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they [were] naked. And they sewed leaves of the fig tree, and made girdles for themselves. (8) And they heard the sound of Jehovah God walking up and down in the garden at the breeze of the day. And the man and his wife hid themselves from the face of Jehovah God in the middle of the trees of the garden. (9) And Jehovah God called to the man and said to him, Where [are] you? (10) And he said, I have heard Your sound in the garden, and I was afraid, for I [am] naked, and I hid myself. (11) And He said, Who told you that you [were] naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat? (12) And the man said, The woman whom You gave [to be] with me, she has given to me of the tree, and I ate. (13) And Jehovah God said to the woman, What [is] this you have done? And the woman said, The serpent deceived me, and I ate. (14) And Jehovah God said to the serpent, Because you have done this, you [are] cursed above all beasts, and above every animal of the field. You shall go on your belly, and you shall eat dust all the days of your life. (15) And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He will bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel. (16) He said to the woman, I will greatly increase your sorrow and your conception; you shall bear sons in sorrow, and your desire shall be toward your husband; and he shall rule over you. (17) And He said to the man, Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten of the tree about which I commanded you, saying, You shall not eat [from] it, the ground [shall be] cursed because of you; you shall eat of it in sorrow all the days of your life. (18) And it shall bring forth thorns and thistles for you, and you shall eat the plant of the field. (19) By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread until your return to the ground. For you have been taken out of it; for you [are] dust, and to dust you shall return. (20) And the man called the name of his wife, Eve; because she became the mother of all living. (21) And Jehovah God made coats of skin for the man and his wife, and clothed them. (22) And Jehovah God said, Behold! The man has become as one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put forth his hand and also take from the Tree of Life, and eat, and live forever, (23) Jehovah God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground out of which he was taken.
What I've just read is the very familiar story of what is called The Fall. On the sixth day of creation, God created the first human being, whose name was Adam. The Hebrew word for Adam is aw-DOM, which means red or ruddy. Other Hebrew words that come from the same root are ad-a-MAH, which means soil or earth or ground, and ad-a-MEE, which means earthy. Adam was the first being who was created from something else. All the rest of creation was created out of nothing, while Adam was created out of the dust of the ground. Adam was different than all the rest of creation because he was created in the image of God. This doesn't mean that Adam was God; it means that Adam was created with some of the qualities of God; namely, an understanding and a will. Human beings are the only RATIONAL beings; they are the only ones who can REASON. Now some might say, "well, I've seen animals make decisions." That's not the same as saying that they are rational. Man is able to contemplate and to judge moral right and moral wrong. Man, unlike animals, has a soul and a conscience. When an animal kills another animal for territory, for example, the animal is not sinning. Or when an animal has several mates, the animal is not sinning. The animal does not have the capacity to sin, because it's not a morally rational being.
So, as I said, the verses we read tell the story - the TRUTHFUL story - of The Fall. God placed Adam in the Garden of Eden and commanded Adam not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. He warned Adam that in the day he ate of this tree, he would surely die. Adam then created the woman from one of Adam's ribs. Her name was Woman at that time. The serpent, who was either a transformed Satan or was indwelled by Satan, then told the woman that God was lying when He promised Adam that Adam would die if he ate of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. God said, "you shall surely die," and the serpent said, "you shall not surely die." Eve then believed the serpent's lie rather than the truth of God. She lusted after the forbidden fruit and then ate of the forbidden fruit. She gave the forbidden fruit to her husband, Adam, and he, too, ate the forbidden fruit. Immediately, they were ashamed of their nakedness and tried to cover themselves. God then comes and curses the serpent for what he did, curses the woman for what she did, and curses the man for what he did. After God made coverings for Adam and Eve's nakedness, He drove the man out. It is certain that Eve went with Adam, because in the next chapter she conceived a son by Adam.
There's a lot to be said about this passage, and I've just given a brief synopsis of what went on and left out some of the details that would be important if we were going through this passage in depth. But I just wanted to give an overview of what went on before we turn to our passage in Romans. Let's now turn to Romans 5. I'll be reading verses 12 through 21:
Romans 5: (12) Because of this, even as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, so also death passed to all men, inasmuch as all sinned. (13) For sin was in [the] world until Law, but sin is not charged [where] there is no law; (14) but death reigned from Adam until Moses, even on those who had not sinned in the likeness of Adam's transgression, who is a type of the coming [One]. (15) But the free gift [is] not also like the deviation. For if by the deviation of the one the many died, much more the grace of God, and the gift in grace, which [is] of the one Man, Jesus Christ, did abound to the many. (16) And the gift [is] not as by one having sinned; for indeed the judgment [was] of one to condemnation, but the free gift [is] of many deviations to justification. (17) For if by the deviation of the one death reigned through the one, much more those who are receiving the abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness shall rule in life by the One, Jesus Christ. (18) So then, as through one deviation [it was] toward all men to condemnation, so also through one righteous act toward all men to justification of life. (19) For as through the one man's disobedience the many were constituted sinners, so also through the obedience of the One the many shall be constituted righteous. (20) But Law came in besides, that the deviation might abound. But where sin abounded, grace much more abounded, (21) that as sin ruled in death, so also grace might rule through righteousness to everlasting life, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Last week, we went into the precious truth that Christ died for the ungodly, for sinners, for God-haters, for His enemies. Now, in the passage that we're starting, Paul gives us an explanation of how human beings became ungodly, sinners, God-haters, God's enemies. He then gives an explanation of the work of Christ for all whom He represented by paralleling it with the work of Adam for all whom HE represented. Let's first go into the work of Adam and how all whom he represented became ungodly.
As we saw earlier, Adam sinned. So what's the big deal about Adam's sin? After all, he disobeyed God, and he was punished for it. What does that have to do with us?
As you might have already noticed, the idea of REPRESENTATION is a very important one when we approach this subject. Without the concept of REPRESENTATION, this subject has no meaning, and thus the gospel has no meaning. A REPRESENTATIVE is one who ACTS AS AN AGENT for another. If I go to a meeting REPRESENTING my boss, then what I do is supposed to be the same as what my BOSS would do. I'm at the meeting IN THE PLACE OF my boss. And if I say something wrong, then it is as if my BOSS had said something wrong. Now this analogy breaks down somewhat, because when I represent someone, I don't do exactly the same as what the person I'm representing would do. But in the case of Adam, Adam REPRESENTED a certain number of people when he sinned. Adam is sometimes called a REPRESENTATIVE HEAD. Adam was IN THE PLACE OF a certain number of people. So when HE sinned and became guilty and defiled, ALL WHOM HE REPRESENTED became guilty and defiled.
Now whom did Adam represent? Adam was the head of, the representative of, whom? Adam was the representative of his PHYSICAL OFFSPRING, his DESCENDANTS. All in Adam's line who were conceived by the egg of a woman and the sperm of a man were, and are, the ones whom Adam represented. How many people does that include? It includes every single human being by nature except for Christ, who was both God and human. So when Adam sinned as a REPRESENTATIVE, he was REPRESENTING the human race.
The next question is: How did the guilt of that sin get TRANSMITTED to Adam's descendants? Some have said that it was physically transmitted through sperm. But a STATE cannot be PHYSICALLY TRANSMITTED. Something like GUILT isn't a physical thing that can be physically passed on. Some have said that it was transmitted by EXAMPLE, so when sons learn to sin from their fathers, that's when the guilt is transmitted. But this does not guarantee that all of Adam's descendants would be guilty from the time of conception; thus, there could possibly be a period of time when a person is NOT GUILTY and is thus in God's favor, not because of Christ, but because of what the person is. Of course, this is blasphemy. This is what most people think who believe that all infants who die in infancy will go to heaven. They say that these infants go to heaven because they are innocent; they haven't sinned yet. This, too, is blasphemy.
So how do all of Adam's descendants become guilty? It's that "I" word again: IMPUTATION. The guilt of Adam's sin is IMPUTED to all whom Adam represented. Remember - IMPUTATION means "charged to the account of." So the guilt of Adam's sin is CHARGED TO THE ACCOUNT OF all whom he represented. Have you ever wondered why the sin of EVE was not charged to the account of the human race, since she's the one who sinned first? It goes back to the idea of REPRESENTATION. Adam was the REPRESENTATIVE HEAD of Eve. Not only was he the representative head, he, as a man, was the head of his wife. So Eve COULD NOT have been the representative head of the human race, because SHE HERSELF had a head that was over her. Okay, back to the fact that the guilt of Adam's sin is charged to the account of all whom he represented. When an unborn baby is conceived, the guilt of Adam's sin is charged to the account of that unborn baby, and he becomes really, actually guilty in God's sight and deserving of everlasting punishment in hell.
Now someone might ask, "So God will send someone to hell who has never sinned?" The answer is NO. When the guilt of Adam's sin is imputed to a person, a principle of sin is IMPARTED into that person. And that principle of sin is the only principle there is in that person. Thus, whatever the person does is sinful. That person, from the moment of conception, is defiled by sin. If one of these infants dies in this state, he will go to hell. By the way, I am NOT saying that all infants who die in infancy go to hell; the Bible shows that there are some infants whom God regenerates and causes to believe the gospel, even before they are born.
Let's now turn to some passages that confirm what I've just spoken about.
Job 14: (4) Who gives a clean [thing] out of an unclean? No one!
Job asks a rhetorical question and answers it. A clean thing cannot come out of an unclean thing. Now since Adam became guilty and defiled because of his sin, can anything that is not guilty and defiled come from his children? And if Adam's children are defiled, can anything that is not defiled come from THEIR children? And from THEIR children? And from THEIR children? And on and on, up until the present day. The defilement is self-perpetuating.
Psalm 51: (5) Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.
Was there a time before we were born when we were not guilty and defiled? No. From the time of our conception, we were sinners.
1 Corinthians 2:14:
1 Corinthians 2: (14) But a natural man does not receive the things of [the] Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he is not able to know [them], because they are spiritually discerned.
Those who are natural, descendants of Adam by nature, are not able to receive or know the things that are spiritually discerned. They are after the flesh, as Romans 8:5 says, and those who are after the flesh cannot be subject to God's law and cannot please God. And we can go on, as there are many other passages like this.
Let's go back to our passage in Romans 5 to further flesh this out. Let's read the first part of verse 12:
Romans 5: (12) Because of this, even as sin entered the world through one man,
Sin entered the world through one man, which is Adam. Notice right away that sin entered the WORLD. Adam did not sin as a private person, because if he did, the sin would have died with him. But sin ENTERED through him and was SPREAD from him. Next, let's read the first part of verse 18:
Romans 5: (18) So then, as through one deviation [it was] toward all men to condemnation,
The one sin of Adam was TOWARD all men to condemnation. Now to the first part of verse 19:
Romans 5: (19) For as through the one man's disobedience the many were constituted sinners,
Through disobedience of one man, Adam, the many were CONSTITUTED sinners. So the sin of Adam was TOWARD all, and through this sin, all were CONSTITUTED sinners. Remember back in Romans 3:22, where the Holy Spirit through the apostle Paul says that the righteousness of God through faith of Jesus Christ is TOWARD all and UPON all those believing? Here's a parallel. The sin of Adam is TOWARD all and UPON all whom he represented. TOWARD all means given to all, and UPON all means imputed to all. If someone is CONSTITUTED a sinner because of one man's sin, this CONSTITUTION must mean that the sin of the one man was IMPUTED to those whom he represented, especially in light of the last part of verse 19, where it says that because of the obedience of Christ, the many shall be CONSTITUTED righteous.
Let's go back through this passage now and look at the CONSEQUENCE of Adam's sin. First, verse 12:
Romans 5: (12) Because of this, even as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, so also death passed to all men, inasmuch as all sinned.
Sin entered through Adam, and what entered through sin? DEATH. And this DEATH did not just stay with Adam; it was PASSED TO ALL MEN. Remember when God told Adam that in the day he ate of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil he would die? Well, did Adam drop dead right after he ate the fruit or on the same day he ate it? No. So God's promise of death was not a promise that Adam would drop dead that day. It was a twofold promise. First, it was a promise that he would die spiritually. Second, it was a promise that his body, that was not subject to physical decay and death before The Fall, would decay and die. Yet God's promise to Adam was not to Adam as a private person; it was a promise to Adam as the REPRESENTATIVE of the human race. So when God promised that Adam would die spiritually and physically, that promise was to the WHOLE HUMAN RACE. Thus, when Adam sinned, death passed to all men. The last part says, "inasmuch as all sinned." When Adam sinned, death passed to him, but since he was a representative, all sinned in him, and thus death passed to all who sinned in him.
Now the middle of verse 15: "For if by the deviation of the one the many died." And to the beginning of verse 17: "For if by the deviation of the one, death reigned through one." And to the beginning of verse 21: "that as sin ruled in death." Again, we see the representation of Adam and the consequences of Adam's sin toward EVERYONE whom He represented. When Adam sinned, all sinned in Adam. When Adam died, all died in Adam. Turn over to 1 Corinthians 15:22, and let's read the first part of it.
1Corinthians 15: (2 ) for as in Adam all die,
Now I know I'm jumping all around and only reading portions of sentences, but there's a method to my madness. What needs to be established first is that Adam was a REPRESENTATIVE of the human race, and because of this, by his one sin all sinned, the guilt of his sin was imputed to all, and in HIS spiritual death ALL were plunged into spiritual death.
I'd now like to read two passages that describe the human condition by nature as one of death.
Ephesians 2: (1) and you being dead in deviations and sins,
Colossians 2: (13) And you, being dead in the deviations and the uncircumcision of your flesh,
These passages contrast death with life. Death means the absence of life. There is no spiritual life in those who are totally depraved because of Adam's sin. They cannot hear, they cannot see, they cannot understand, they cannot obey. Their works are nothing but fruit unto death, as Romans 7:5 says. Now let's turn over to Romans 6:23 and read the first part of that verse:
Romans 6: (23a) For the wages of sin [is] death
Here, Paul talks about death as the wages of sin. The Greek word for WAGES means RATIONS, PAY, or COMPENSATION. Every two weeks, I get WAGES for the work that I have done. I get PAID for my labor. My WAGES are something I EARN. This phrase in Romans 6:23 means that sin EARNS death. Just as I, by my labor, EARN money for what I have done, so sin EARNS what sin deserves, which is DEATH. What kind of death is being talked about here? Well, if you take it in its context, you'll see that it is contrasted with everlasting LIFE. So the DEATH that is talked about here is ETERNAL PUNISHMENT in hell. It's one of the essential gospel doctrines that I preached about a couple years ago. If you don't know or believe what sin EARNS, then you don't know or believe what SALVATION is. If you don't know or believe that sin earns eternal punishment in hell, then you do not believe the gospel, because the gospel includes being saved FROM something. God's people are saved FROM the bondage of sin and the consequences of sin. Now this truth of "sin earning death" fits right into what I was talking about before. It should give us an even better understanding of the connection between sin and its consequences. When Adam, as a representative of the human race, sinned, the wages of his sin, and the wages of the sin of all who sinned in Adam, is DEATH. Adam's sin earned death. And since Adam's sin is imputed to everyone by nature, the sin of everyone by nature earns death.
Okay. Now that we have established that sin, and thus death, have come upon all whom Adam represented because of Adam's sin, I'd like to go back to Romans 5 and explain verses 13 and 14. Let's read them:
Romans 5: (13) For sin was in [the] world until Law, but sin is not charged [where] there is no law; (14) but death reigned from Adam until Moses, even on those who had not sinned in the likeness of Adam's transgression, who is a type of the coming [One].
Now there have been lots of crazy interpretations of this passage, so let's try for a sane interpretation.
"Sin was in the world until Law." From the time Adam sinned until the formal giving of the Law through Moses, sin was in the world. This follows from the previous verse that sin entered the world through one man. So everyone after Adam was in sin, even before God gave the Law to the people on Mt. Sinai. Just because the Law had not been spelled out in detail does not mean that people were not in sin before that Law was spelled out in detail.
Next, "but sin is not charged where there is no law." This is saying that if there were no law AT ALL between Adam and Moses, then there would not have been any sin or any consequences of sin.
Next, "but death reigned from Adam until Moses." This is saying that obviously, sin WAS charged between Adam and Moses, because death, which is the consequence of sin, reigned between Adam and Moses. It's easier to understand when you put the last phrase and this phrase together like this: "But sin is not charged where there is NO law, but death reigned from Adam until Moses." So, even if the Law had not been given yet in the way in which it was given to Moses, the ones BEFORE Moses were not completely without law, as evidenced by the fact that death reigned from Adam until Moses, meaning that there was SOME law that was sinned against. If there were NO law at all between Adam and Moses, then there would have been NO sin at all between Adam and Moses.
Next, "even on those who had not sinned in the likeness of Adam's transgression." So death reigned in all of Adam's offspring because sin was charged to all of Adam's offspring, even on the offspring who had not sinned in the likeness of Adam's transgression. Now who are those who had not sinned in the likeness of Adam's transgression? Who of them did not sin in the way Adam did? Well, in what way did Adam sin? Adam was given a specific commandment from God, with the promise of death if he disobeyed. But after that, God did not give specific commandments and specific threats if those commandments were broken until He gave the Law to Moses. So, in between Adam and Moses, the people were not given specific commandments with the threat of death, yet death reigned in them anyway, meaning that sin must have been charged, and thus there must have been a law that these people sinned against, even if they were not given the Law in the form that God gave it to Moses. Does that make sense? That's the only way that verses 13 and 14 hold together.
The last part of verse 14 says, "who is a type of the coming One." Adam is a type of Christ. But I'm not going to go into that in this sermon. If you've noticed in this sermon, I've left out the parts about Christ as the parallel to Adam. The method to my madness is that I want to preach a separate sermon on this, because this subject is going to need an extra amount of time. In this sermon, I preached on the "Adam" side of Romans 5:12-21. Next week, the Lord willing, I will be preaching on the "Christ" side of this passage, including its relation to what I've just said about Adam as a representative. But to give you a little taste of the next sermon and to show you how this relates to the gospel, I'll end with this:
Just as Adam's sin was imputed to everyone whom He represented, so Christ's righteousness is imputed to everyone whom HE represented. Jesus Christ, the representative of a certain people, imputes His righteousness to His people so they go from being condemned in Adam to being justified in Christ. Salvation is all about the work of Christ as a representative and substitute of His people. His work is what makes the only difference between salvation and damnation. There is death in the sin of Adam, and there is life in the righteousness of Christ. Amen.