We have hope in Christ’s triumph over Adam’s sin (Romans 5:12-21).

We have hope in Christ’s triumph over Adam’s sin (Romans 5:12-21).

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church on Saturday, March 20 and Sunday, March 21, 2021

J.R.R. Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings, coined the term “eucatastrophe,” which means “good catastrophe.” When it looks like a hero is doomed . . . but then the plot turns! The death of Jesus certainly qualifies as a eucatastrophe! As one writer explains, “Jesus’ crucifixion was the most evil event in history, but it secured the redemption of those who believe in Jesus’ substitutionary atonement for their salvation.”

Christ’s sacrifice made it possible for us (and all of humanity) to start over. That is why Paul depicted Him as the new Adam.[1]

My theme is:

We have hope in Christ’s triumph over Adam’s sin.

My application:

Serve Christ out of love for Him. Worship Him for His free gift.

  • Verse 12 gives a nice summary of the passage.

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

  • There is a dash at the end of verse 12 because it is not picked up again until verses 18-19.
    • As we get to this passage we are picking up from the previous section.
    • Notice that verse 12 begins with a therefore and this means that we are making an inference based off of the previous material.
    • Verses 1-11 are all about our reconciliation with God. Verse 10 reads: For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.
    • So, now Paul is building on this idea.
    • Look at verse 12: sin came into the world through one man, who was that?
    • Sin came into the world through Adam.
    • Death came into the world through sin.
    • In Genesis 3 when sin came into the world they did not die right away, but they all died eventually. In fact, they did die spiritually right away. Also, if you look at the genealogies in Genesis 5, notice the emphasis on death. Notice how it emphasized, “and he died.”
    • Death spread to all men, why? This is because all have sinned (see Romans 3:23; 6:23).
    • In these verses, death is both physical and spiritual. Death in the Bible is always thought of as unnatural. Death is not just a natural part of living.
    • I like how MacArthur says it: Because all humanity existed in the loins of Adam, and have through procreation inherited his fallenness and depravity, it can be said that all sinned in him. Therefore, humans are not sinners because they sin, but rather they sin because they are sinners.[4]
  • History of the sin of Adam leading up to the justification from Christ (Verses 13-17).

for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 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. 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. 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. 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.

  • Verse 13 is interesting. Does it means that they were not accountable for sin before the law? I do not think so.
    • What law is he talking about? He is talking about the law of Moses, the Ten Commandments and everything from Exodus-Deuteronomy.
    • Basically, before the law, there was the moral law. This would be God’s law. There was still the general revelation of right and wrong which God gives to us all. They were still held accountable but based off of God’s moral law.
    • So, they still had the law of God.
    • Verse 14 helps us interpret verse 13.
    • In verse 14 we see that there was still death, which means there was still sin. Death reigned from Adam through Moses. Moses brought about the Ten Commandments and the Law. Yet, before Moses they were still dead spiritually and they died physically. In Romans 2:12 Paul had said that those without the written law are still judged by God. In Genesis 6-9 they all perished in the flood. In Genesis 11:19 people faced judgment at the tower of Babel.
    • Verse 14 continues to show that death reigned even over those who did not sin like Adam sinned. They all sinned, but Adam was the head of the human race and the first one to cross God’s Divine commandment. Further, verse 14 shows that Adam was a type, in other words a foreshadowing of the One, that is Jesus, who was to come.
    • I like how one source shares: In this passage Paul explores the contrasts between the condemning act of Adam and the redemptive act of Christ. They were different in their effectiveness (v. 15), their extent (v. 16), their efficacy (v. 17), their essence (vv. 18, 19), and their energy (vv. 20, 21).[6]
    • In verse 15 Paul continues to build on the free gift of Christ. Verse 15 shows that the condemnation through Adam versus the redemption in Christ were different in their effectiveness.
    • The free gift is not like the trespass… Paul is about to use a “how much more” argument. Many died because of Adam’s trespass, that is Adam’s sin. That means that God’s grace is so very much more.
    • Paul also emphasizes the grace as a free gift.
    • Paul will continue to build on this idea. Paul will build on our great salvation.
    • In verse 16 Paul once again says the gift is not like… Notice how he is contrasting the greatness of the grace of God through Jesus with the death from Adam’s sin. Judgment came through sin. Judgment resulted in condemnation.
    • But through Jesus, through the free gift (it says “free” gift again), from all the transgressions we received justification. This means that we are declared righteous through Jesus. There were all the transgressions, that means to cross a moral or Divine law, all those transgressions came from Adam’s first sin. But through Jesus we are all made righteous.
    • Verse 16 shows that the condemnation through Adam versus the redemption in Christ were different in their extent.
    • In verse 17 we see that death reigned through that first sin, much more the gift of righteousness will reign.
    • Verse 18 shows that the condemnation through Adam versus the redemption in Christ were different in their efficacy. That means Jesus’ death on the cross accomplished His purpose.
  • Contrast of sin of Adam versus obedience through Jesus (Verses 18-21).

Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 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. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

  • Paul continues to build up his case.
    • He has already stated the case. Now, he is building on it.
    • One trespass, one cross of the law, led to condemnation. So, one act of righteousness, that is Jesus’ obedience to the cross leads to our being declared righteous. He says justification for “all” men, but we know from other Scriptures that this would be all who trust in Jesus for salvation (John 3:16; 14:6; Romans 3:23; 6:23; 10:9-10).
    • Again, verse 19 is restating this. The disobedience of Adam versus the obedience of Christ. Humans were made sinners through Adam’s sin because he represented humanity. As stated before, we were all in his loins. But in Christ we can be made righteous.
    • Verse 20 is interesting: the Law came, what law? This is the law of Moses, the Ten Commandments, and with the law our transgressions/sins increased. What does that mean? It means that with the Ten Commandments we now had written culpability/accountability for sin. Verse 20 continues, where sin increased grace abounded all the more. That means that God’s free act of forgiveness through Jesus was given more.
    • This does not mean we should go on sinning, NO! Paul answers that in Romans 6:1. No, this is simply exalting how awesome our salvation is. Sin hurts God. Sin breaks His heart.
    • Verse 21 summarizes this passage and this awesome truth.
    • Sin reigned [ruled] in death. Sin caused death. Grace, that is God’s free gift of salvation, rules through righteousness, that is Jesus’ righteousness, and this gives us eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen! Praise God!
  • How do we apply this?
    • To me, this is a worship passage, do I worship Christ for the awesome salvation which He has freely provided.
    • I notice an emphasis on “free gift” in verses 15-16, which is used four times. We would be stuck in our sin except that Christ stepped in and gave us a free gift.
    • Do we try to earn our salvation? We cannot earn our salvation and that is why Jesus gave us the free gift of His righteousness.
    • We must serve and worship Jesus who gives us His grace.

To give today’s passage even more context, re-read the record of the original Adam and the Fall in Genesis 3–4. How were Adam and Eve led to disobey? What were the consequences? What evidence was there that God continued to love them? Rejoice that “as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:22)![8]


[1] https://www.todayintheword.org/issues/2019/december-2019/devotions-december-2019/devotion-december-06-2019/

[2] Crossway Bibles, The ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008), 2166.

[3] Paige Patterson, “Salvation in the Old Testament,” in CSB Study Bible: Notes, ed. Edwin A. Blum and Trevin Wax (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2017), 1789.

[4] John F. MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2006), Ro 5:12.

OT Old Testament

[5] Michael G. Vanlaningham, “Romans,” in The Moody Bible Commentary, ed. Michael A. Rydelnik and Michael Vanlaningham (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2014), 1752.

[6] John F. MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2006), Ro 5:15–21.

[7] Crossway Bibles, The ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008), 2167.

[8] https://www.todayintheword.org/issues/2019/december-2019/devotions-december-2019/devotion-december-06-2019/

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