Despite all our different backgrounds, appearances and races, humanity is reduced down to only two different groups. There are those who are in Adam and there are those who are in Christ. Adam, who was the first man, was a representative of all people that followed. Jesus Christ was also a representative of all who belong to Him. There are far reaching consequences to the actions of both Adam and Christ. All humanity is in Adam, but by means of faith alone we can be in Christ. Paul starts off by revealing the condemnation of those who are in Adam and then the contrasts between the action of Adam and Christ.
1. THE CONDEMNATION (5:12-14)
These verses explain why the world is the way it is. Despite attempts to bring about reformation and social change, a glaring problem plagues all humanity, and that is the reality of sin. Paul begins by showing why all humanity is under condemnation. He says, “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” (5:12). This is referring to the original sin that Adam committed. Because he was representing all mankind, the consequences of his disobedience spread to all people.
Paul goes on to make a distinction between someone being a sinner and being a transgressor. To sin means to miss the mark of God’s glory, whereas to transgress means to over step the line of God’s Word. Every person that lived between Adam and Moses was in sin, even though they didn’t yet have the Law. This is evidenced by the fact that “death reigned from Adam to Moses” (5:14a). Yet their sins were different form Adam because he violated the specific command of God. Paul then calls Adam a type of Christ (5:14b). Both of them are representatives of their people whose actions have consequences.
2. THE CONTRASTS (5:15-17)
In verses 15-17, Paul provides three contrasts between Adam and Christ. These contrasts reveal the power of God’s grace in salvation for all who trust in Christ. The first is a contrast of power (5:15). Here Paul shows how Adam’s “offence” leads to death, whereas Christ’s act defeated death by bringing to the sinner eternal life. Secondly, there is a contrast in results (5:16). Adam’s act “resulted in condemnation” whereas Christ’s act “resulted in justification.” Finally, we see the contrast in rule (5:17). Adam’s transgression led to the reign of death, whereas the one act of Christ resulted in His people reigning in life. In verses 18-19, Paul provides two additional contrasts that summarise the whole point he has made in this passage with the comparison of Adam and Christ. If you are in Adam you are sinful and condemned, but if you are in Christ you are justified and righteous. Adam brought the human race into ruin, but Jesus Christ brings all who trust Him into fullness of life.
In conclusion, we learnt that the lack of the presence of the Law didn’t make people innocent (5:13-14), but the presence of the Law highlights our specific sins (5:20). But, in Christ there is great and abounding grace that leads to eternal life (5:21).
- There are some people who claim that Adam was not a historical person. What are the implications of this error when reading Romans 5:12-21?
- In what way was Adam a representative of humanity? What were the consequences of Adam’s sin? See 5:12 and 1 Cor. 15:22
- How does Romans 5:12-21 explain to us the presence of sin all over the world? Comment on the fact that by nature we are all sinners, and then by action we are transgressors.
- Fill in the following chart showing the differences between Adam and Christ based on Romans 5:15-19:
- How does this passage provide us with a greater appreciation and love for Christ?