This weeks section has been rightfully defined as one of the hardest sections in the book of Romans to grasp, fully-understand and explain. The ideas are fundamental, but the wording and how the message is poured out to us can be hard to comprehend in one fell swoop. We will do our best to break this down, apply them and grow in our understanding of the scriptures.
12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— 13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.
15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. 16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.
18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. 20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. – Romans 5:12-21
Just as sin came into the world…
We have learned over time about how sin came into the world through Eve, being deceived by the enemy; Adam passively by her side not protecting and even blaming her. That is the event with the one man, Adam that the scripture begins with. When Adam and Eve sinned and decided to oppose God and do what they wanted to do, they were cast out of the Garden.
It was through Adam that sin entered the world. When Adam sinned, he immediately died spiritually, his relationship with God was broken. He also began dying physically, his body began the process of growing old and dying. From that point on, every person born has inherited Adam’s sin nature and suffered the same consequences of spiritual and physical death.
Sin was in the world before the law…
The law did not start the definition of sin. It is not the law that sends people to hell. Just like us, we know internally when we do something wrong, even before we stop to think if it was right or wrong. The law was given to help protect us, not to limit and torture us. Many are challenged with the notion that they are not in the wrong until some one tells them so. Sort of like saying I can do anything until some one tells me I shouldn’t.
An example I have experienced this week was when my son explained to me how he got a bag of candy that he wanted. He knew that he was not supposed to have the candy because he is diabetic, but he believed the notion that we did not tell him that he could not have that specific type of candy, so he bought it any way. He was willfully disobedient. Meanwhile, he knew that his decision was not right. He felt some guilt, but his pleasures overrode his guilt and he went on and enjoyed it for the moment. Sound familiar?
Can you share an example where your conscious let you know something is not appropriate, but the actions didn’t break any worldly laws?
The law by which all scripture bases its foundation on is the commandments handed down to Moses from God directly, in the book of Exodus. (Frequently referred to as the Mosaic law, meaning “of Moses”) The most obvious thing for us to realize is that Adam and Moses did not live at the same time. When you try to find out how many years was between him you get many different answers, the most common is that it was over 2000 years. During the time between the garden and the law being given to Moses, people were being born and dying. This is clearly illustrating that the sin nature of Adam was in full affect before the law was given to Moses. The basic fact is that the sin damage was between the human race and God. The relationship was broken, regardless of who and when God gave the law to man.
Sin is not counted where there is no law…
If we recall from our Multiply series, the reason God gave the law to humankind was to assist them in knowing how to love Him. The idea was to assist, not hinder or torture. Now as a result of knowing what to do, by deductive reasoning we can determine what we are not supposed to do. The problem is that we then focus on what we are not supposed to do with the idea that we will do what we are suppose to do. When we get in that mindset, we don’t feel any joy or happiness, we just become performance driven and everything is a task.
This section is describing the behavior of the people, much like what we described above. Have you ever noticed that we have really strange warnings and laws in our American government? Here are just a few to give you a chuckle:
“Do not allow children to play in the dishwasher.”
A label on a baby stroller warns: “Remove child before folding”
A brass fishing lure with a three-pronged hook on the end warns: “Harmful if swallowed”
A household iron warns users: “Never iron clothes while they are being worn”
A cardboard car sunshield that keeps sun off the dashboard warns, “Do not drive with sunshield in place”
These are funny, but why do we think that someone spent the time and energy to warn people of such things? Most likely because some one has not used common sense and actually complained about a bad consequence experienced.
Can you share of a time when your own common sense has let you down and you just laugh at yourself and jokingly state, “I didn’t know”?
We need to logically realize that it is the broken thinking and actions we take that separates us from God. Not the laws. There are morals that human nature just deems as wise. This is where the whole civil rights movement started and how people begin to define what is acceptable and what is not.
Free gift not like the trespass
By studying something directly we can learn about it. To really get the specifics on something you compare it. That is exactly what Paul does next. He compares Adam and Jesus. There are so many ties between the two scripturally that we tend to just take it for granted.
15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. 16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. 18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. – Romans 5:15-19
The fundamentals to begin with are that Adam chose what he wanted to do, and Christ did what God wanted to do. Many people die because of Adam’s sin, a less live because of Jesus’ gift. Following Adam’s sin many millions of people have committed millions upon millions of sins, but the one action of Jesus covers them all. Hence the statement: “much more have the grace of God”.
From the initial disobedience of Adam, death has taken authority of the physical life of the human race. Death reigns. No one is cheating death. We will all die the spiritual death, but God comes in to clarify that there is so much more than this physical world. God’s intentions are to take care of us for eternity. People suffer death because of the sin of one man, Adam. God’s huge supply of grace and his gift of righteousness come by means of one man, Jesus Christ. Those who accept God’s gift will rule with Jesus in his kingdom. In the end, God will defeat death. Just like verses used in many songs and captured by Paul in 1 Corinthians chapter 15:
54When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 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 15:54-57
Then we even get a nice summary from Paul in 2 Corinthians:
21For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. – 2 Corinthians 5:21
The result of Adam’s sin makes everyone guilty. The result of Christ’s righteous act is that everyone can become righteous. God offers righteousness to everyone who will invite him into their lives. Many people became sinners because Adam did not obey God. Many people became friends with God because Christ obeyed him.
Grace, even more
As referenced earlier in verse 15, Paul comes back with verse 20 to reemphasize the amount of grace given by God to us…all the more
20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. – Romans 5:20-21
When the people received God’s law, they knew about God’s standards. But few people even tried to live their lives by God’s standards. People knew what God wanted them to do. But most people preferred to continue their sinful lives. We see this still today, even some of us right here are willing to admit we do it today. We know what we are doing is wrong, and we elect to ignore the one that loves us, and essentially tell him, we know a better way.
As we close chapter 5, a table is provided to give us an illustration of the vast differences of Adam compared to Jesus. We know we are born into Adam’s linage, but when we accept Jesus Christ as our savior, we become adopted into God’s family. We get his inheritance.
|sin (5:12, 15, 21)
|death (5:12, 16, 21)
||eternal life (5:17, 21)
|separation from God (5:18)
||relationship with God (5:11, 19)
|disobedience (5:12, 19)
||deliverance (5:10, 11)