The Deadly Effects of Adam’s Disobedience – Romans 5:12-14
Pastor Mark Hardy July 1, 2012
Henry Goodear, a merchant living in London, was very much inclined to scoff at the Bible and its teaching. One day his niece, Mary, persuaded him to go to church, but he went “just to please her.” That morning the pastor’s sermon was on Genesis 5, which is the obituary column of the Old Testament, for after listing a particular descendant of Adam eight times it says “and he died.”
Disappointed, Mary couldn’t understand why God would permit such a morbid and uninteresting topic on this day of all others? As they walked home together after the service, Henry was rather quiet and made no comment but with every footstep and every heartbeat the words, “And he died” kept ringing in his ears.
Throughout that night and all the next day Henry continued to hear the words “And he died” echoing in his head. When he finally got home from work he looked for the old family Bible and read through Genesis 5 once again where the same simple story was told about each person, “He lived—and he died.” The Spirit of God powerfully used these three little words to convict him of the fact that although he was living, he too would die, and then what? That very night Henry Goodear put his faith in Jesus Christ, who said in John 11:26 that whoever “…believes in Me The harsh reality of life in this fallen, sinful world is that one day everyone will die, unless the Lord returns. Death is guaranteed! This morning we are going to be looking at why. Turn in your Bible to Romans 5.
As we continue on in our study of Romans 5, we now come to vv. 12-21. This passage has been called one of the most profound and difficult passages in Romans, if not in the entire New Testament. It is difficult because the structure of this passage does not flow smoothly.
As we will see, in v. 12 Paul begins a comparison between Adam and Christ in order to bring out the universal significance of Christ’s work. However, he breaks off his sentence for an important parenthesis in vv. 13-14 on how those without the Law can sin if there was no law to specify sin. In vv. 15-17 he drives home the dissimilarities between Adam and Christ before he completes the thought of his unfinished sentence (v. 12) in vv. 18-19. He then summarizes in vv. 20-21.
Leon Morris says, “There is an objectivity to this section that we should not miss. In verses 1-11 and again in 6:1-9 the pronoun ‘we’ is constant, but in 5:12-21 there is not one ‘we.’ Paul is concentrating on objective facts, irrespective of our participation.” (pg. 228)
In these verses Paul is generalizing by giving us a whole lot of facts that are simple and clear, but his explanation of “how” these facts are worked out is not. This morning we are going to look at only vv. 12-14.
In Romans 5:12-14 we see four facts about Adam’s original sin in the Garden of Eden and its deadly effects on all of humanity.
The first fact is this:
I. Sin Entered the World through Adam
A. Look at v. 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—
1. This one verse is packed with meaning! By saying “Therefore” Paul is drawing a conclusion from what he has said previously. The question is how far back is he referring?
2. It is grammatically possible to see this as referring to vv. 1-11 or all that we have seen from 1:18-5:11. But probably it refers only to v. 11 which shows the believer’s hope and blessing of being justified and reconciled by the death of Jesus Christ on the cross.
3. Paul is now going to show us why one person’s sacrifice can bring such blessings to so many.
B. Look again at v. 12, “…just as through one man sin entered into the world… (Stop there)
1. A key word in this great passage is the word “one,” used fourteen times in all. The “one man” here refers to Adam, since he is specifically named in v. 14.
2. By the words “just as” Paul begins a comparison between the first Adam and the second or last Adam, Christ (1 Cor. 15:45, 47). This is where we get the term “Adam Theology” and this is the greatest passage on that subject.
3. Throughout this passage Paul will compare and contrast the primary stuff of Adam Theology, which involves: Two men, two acts, two results, and two constituencies or communities called “the many” or “all.”
4. The two men are Adam and Christ. These two men respectively represent condemnation and justification (v. 16), disobedience and obedience (v. 19), law and grace (v. 20), sin and righteousness (v. 21), and death and life (v. 21).
5. The two acts are Adam’s one trespass and Christ’s one righteous act in His atoning death on the cross.
6. The two results are Adam’s sin, condemnation, and death, and Christ’s righteousness, justification, and life. And the two constituencies are all of humanity in Adam, and a new believing humanity in Christ.
C. Now it was through the one man Adam that “…sin entered into the world.”
1. Here “sin” is personified as a mighty force of evil coming from outside into the “world,” which refers to the human race. Although sin didn’t originate with Adam but with Satan (1 Jn. 3:8; Rev. 12:3, 7-9), Paul is referring to Adam’s original sin in the Garden of Eden.
2. God gave Adam the explicit command in Genesis 2:16-17, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; 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.”
3. And yet, Satan tempted Eve and said to her in Genesis 3:4-5, “You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Verse 6) “When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.”
4. Remaining passively silent while Eve was deceived and ate of the forbidden fruit (2 Cor. 11:3; 1 Tim. 2:14), Adam deliberately chose Eve over God, and also ate. It was at that moment that sin invaded the human race.
5. The second fact about Adam’s original sin is this:
II. The Result of Sin is Death
A. Look again at v. 12: Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin… (Stop there)
1. God originally created mankind to live forever and they would have been immortal had Adam not sinned. They would have ended their earthly course by simply being “changed” into their glorified bodies (1 Cor. 15:51) and never dying.
2. Therefore, death is the penalty for sin. The word “death” (thanatos) means “separation” and is also here personified.
3. Sin and death are inseparable (Gen. 2:17; 3:19; 5:5; Ezek. 18:4; Rom. 1:32; 6:23; 7:5; Jam. 1:15). When sin entered into the human race death, entered through the same door.
4. Along with original sin came original death. C.E.B. Cranfield said it well, “…sin’s entry meant also the entry of death, which followed sin like a shadow.” (pg. 274)
B. Now by death, Paul means all aspects of death.
1. First, is spiritual death or separation from God (Eph. 2:1), which took place immediately when Adam sinned (Gen. 2:17). This was revealed by his hiding from God and expulsion from the Garden.
2. Second, is physical death or separation of the soul from the body. This is the culmination of spiritual death and came to Adam when he was 430 years old (Gen. 5:5).
3. Third, is eternal death or separation from God forever in the “lake of fire,” which is called the “second death” (Rev. 20:14; 21:8). This is for those who have rejected Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord in this life.
4. The third fact about Adam’s original sin is this:
III. Death Spread to All sinful Humanity
A. Look again at v. 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—
1. Adam’s sin has everything to do with you and me! The word “spread” (dielthen) here speaks of penetration and permeation.
2. Adam’s sin didn’t stop with his own death; it kept moving to include the entire human race, like a terrible stench permeating all of the rooms of a house.
3. First Corinthians 15:22 declares, “For as in Adam all die….” And this is corroborated in Genesis 5, the obituary column of the Old Testament, as the words “and he died” is repeated over and over again.
4. Death is universal because sin is universal. Paul said, “…death spread to all men, because all sinned.”
5. Now in what way have all sinned so that all die? Although some say that all sinned by merely imitating Adam and following his example, it is better to see this as all sinned in and with Adam.
B. There are the three major views as to how this happened:
1. The first view is called: The Realistic View. This view teaches what is known as the direct seminal headship of Adam. It says that the whole human race was in Adam seminally, genetically, and biologically when he sinned. Therefore, when he sinned we literally and actually sinned as well (Heb. 7:4-10). This is the worst view.
2. The second view is called: The Mediate Imputational View. This view is essentially still related to a seminal connection to Adam. It says that when Adam sinned he not only became a sinner, but also corrupted his nature. Therefore, through the process of procreation he transmitted to all his descendants that same corrupt sinful nature. As a result of having an inherited sinful nature we all personally sin independent of Adam. This is a very popular view.
3. Now it is true that we are all related to Grandpa Adam seminally, genetically and biologically and have received an inherited sinful nature (Eph. 2:3) whereby we are all born sinners (Ps. 51:5) and we all personally sin by choice. But this is not what Paul is talking about in this passage.
4. The third view that best harmonizes most (not all) of the biblical data is called: The Representative or Federal Headship View.
5. As the representative head of all humanity, Adam’s one act of sin was considered by God to be the act of all people and his penalty of death was judicially made the penalty of everyone. Although it was Adam’s sin our account is imputed or reckoned with red ink because he represented us.
6. We can see this in the word “sinned” (hamarton), which is in the aorist tense, signifying a completed action in the past. The entire human race is viewed as having sinned in the one act of Adam’s sin.
7. When Adam sinned we sinned; when he fell, we fell. John Murray accurately states that the “…one sin of the one man Adam is accounted to be the sin of all.” (pg. 185)
8. In other words, the “many” or the “all” are fully represented by and included in the “one.” This is what the term solidarity means, which is also been called “Corporate Personality.”
9. John MacArthur describes this saying, “Mankind is a single entity, constituting a divinely ordered solidarity. Adam represents the entire human race that is descended from him, no matter how many subgroups there may be.” (pg. 293)
10. A good example of this solidarity is the story of Achan’s sin in Joshua 7 where he took some of the banned spoil of Israel’s victory over Jericho. Because of one man’s sin, God held the whole nation of Israel accountable. And when he was found out, Achan and his family were stoned and burned along with all his possessions.
11. Likewise, as our representative, the one act of the one man Adam had deadly effects on all of humanity through our corporate solidarity. Charles Hodge states, “Neither the corruption of nature, nor the actual sins of men, and their liability on account of them, is either questioned or denied, but the simple statement is, that on account of the sin of Adam, all men are treated as sinners.” (pg. 155)
12. We see this solidarity principle very clearly in the wider context:
• V. 15: “by the transgression of the one the many died.”
• V. 16: “the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation.”
• V. 17: “death reigned through the one.”
• V. 18: “through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men.”
• V. 19: through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners.”
13. Therefore, the Representative View best preserves Paul’s analogy between Adam and Christ in this passage. Just as all humanity is constituted sinners on account of what Adam did, all believers are constituted righteous on account of what Christ did.
14. But Leon Morris makes an important point, “This does not mean that our sinful nature or our many actual sins are unimportant to Paul. Nor does it mean that he is indifferent to the importance of individual responsibility. It simply means that these things are not what he is talking about here. He is concerned with what Adam did and its results. He is saying that Adam’s sin involved us all in a situation of sin and death from which there is no escape other than in Christ.” (pg. 232)
15. Now breaking off the sentence, as indicated by the dash, Paul gives a parenthesis to prove that Adam was really the representative of his race and that all men were subject to death because of his sin.
16. The fourth fact about Adam’s original sin is this:
IV. History Proves the Reign of Death
A. Look at v. 13: for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law.
1. The phrase “until the Law” refers to the period of time from creation to the Mosaic Law. We see this in the statement in v. 14 “from Adam to Moses.”
2. Paul makes it clear that up until the Mosaic Law was given “…sin was in the world.” The word “sin” (harmartia) here is the general word for sin and is the most inclusive.
3. Before Moses, people still sinned and missed the mark of God’s holy standards, even though the target rings were not yet explicitly laid out in black and white in the Mosaic Law. Sin had permeated human society as evidenced by: Cain killing his brother Abel (Gen. 4:8), and God’s judgment upon the world through the flood (Gen. 6), His judgment at the Tower of Babel (Gen. 11) and destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19).
4. Now the tension arises when Paul says, “…but sin is not imputed when there is no law.” The word “imputed” (ellogeitai) is a technical term that means to charge or reckon to one’s account. (Phile. 18)
5. Paul isn’t saying here that sin does not exist unless there is Law, but that sin apart from the Mosaic Law is not equivalent explicit transgression. In other words, red ink is not entered into one’s moral ledge book as particular infractions of the law when there is no law.
6. It is Paul’s change of the term “sin”—from general sin to particular sin—that is the key to understanding vv. 13-14. He is showing the difference between sin in general and explicit, high-handed sin when you bring it up next to the infallible standard of God’s Law.
7. Therefore, although sin in general was still in the world it was not accounted in the form of explicit infractions of specific commands. It was the Mosaic Law that turned general sin into explicit transgressions through its black and white standards.
B. Paul then says in v. 14: Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam… (Stop there)
1. The very fact that sin did exist “from Adam until Moses” is proved by the fact that “death reigned.” The word “reigned” (ebasileusen) means to rule as king.
2. From the time of Adam’s fall until the Law death in all of its aspects was king and reigned as a morbid monarch. And it is still reigning today!
3. No one escapes the reign of death because no one escapes the power of sin. The cemetery is proof of the continual reign of death!
4. Paul then says that death reigned “…even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam.” Notice again how he takes the general word “sinned” and makes it explicit because the comparison is with Adam in his specific transgression.
5. Adam’s sin was different in kind from those who lived before the Mosaic Law in that he violated an explicit command of God, “…from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat.” (Gen. 2:17).
6. Why does Paul make this distinction? Thomas Schreiner says, “Paul’s objective is twofold. First, the power of death is so great that it exercises its dominion over people even if no law exists. Second, violating a commandment revealed by God increases the seriousness of sin in the sense that the sin is now more defiant and rebellious in character.” (pg. 279)
7. Although general sin still holds man culpable, Adam explicitly and rebelliously stepped over a clearly drawn line. And it is his one sin that is in view which brought universal sin and death upon all of humanity because of our solidarity with him.
8. John Murray said it well, “ For the underlying assumption of [Paul’s] thought is that the universal reign of death cannot be explained except in terms of violation of an expressly revealed commandment of God, a violation that cannot be predicated of each and every member of the race in his own individually and particularity. The only sin that provides the explanation is the sin of Adam and the participation of all in that sin.” (pg. 191)
C. Now the mention of Adam by name brought Paul back to the main point of why he is referring to him, the comparison between Adam and Christ. Before he shifts the focus onto the dissimilarities between Adam and Christ in vv. 15-17, he says at the end of v. 14: …Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.
1. Jesus Christ is identified as “…Him who was to come.” This is from Adam’s perspective and standpoint in history.
2. Notice that Paul says Adam is a type of Christ. The word “type” (tupos) refers to an impression made by a blow. It means a stamp, form, outline, pattern, or model.
3. How is it possible to mention these two men in the same breath, since Adam’s fall resulted in the misery and ruin of the human race and Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world?
4. Even though the comparison between Adam and Christ is more of a contrast, as we will see next week, Adam is a type of Christ in regards to the common principle that what one man did affected countless others. That is Adam Theology in a nutshell.
5. C.E.B Cranfield correctly states, “In both cases the act of one man has far reaching consequences for all other men. It is not necessary that the ways in which the consequences follow from the acts should also be exactly parallel.” (pg. 278-79)
6. Leon Morris goes on to say, “We must not press this to mean that Adam was the decisive person and that Christ conformed to the pattern Adam had laid down. Always for Paul Christ is the decisive one. Paul starts from Christ’s saving work and sees a similar pattern in Adam. Christ initiated the new race, the race of the redeemed, just as Adam was the head of the old race, the race of sinners.” (pg. 234)
In closing, these four facts about Adam’s original sin is the reason why humanity is in the situation we are in. This is why we are all sinners and will one day die, unless the Lord returns. The root of our sinful acts is in our inherited sinful nature, but the taproot of our sinful nature is our connection to the original sin of Adam as our representative.
So what do we do? This is the wonder of the gospel! Just as we were constituted corrupt sinners on account of what Adam did, we are constituted righteous saints on account of what Christ did, if we will but put our faith in His finished work on the cross on our behalf and receive Him as our personal Savior and Lord. Jesus alone has paid in full the penalty for our sin. Therefore, we as believers can praise God that although “…the wages of sin is death…the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23).