Romans 5:12-21
Adam And Christ

Authored By Rev. Takao Kiyohiro, Tokyo, Japan

Re-Translated In December 1999

1.  The Epistle To The Roman Disciples enters a new section after chapter five.  From here on Paul begins to speak on "the life of the person justified by faith."  First, [the scriptures] speak on "peace," [then] on hope, and on the love of God which has its basis in hope.  We are to live in hope as persons reconciled with God because of the love of God.  That's a person justified by faith.  Then, from verse twelve Paul brings Adam the ancestor of humankind in the Old Testament to center stage.  Paul will clarify what the life of a justified person is by setting Adam and Christ in contrast to each other.

The Universality Of Sin And Death

2.  With that, let's begin by reading from verses twelve to fourteen.

"For this reason, as through one man sin entered into the world and death came in through sin, death came to all persons because all persons have sinned.  Sin was in the world even before the law was given, but unless there is a law, sin is not recognized as sin. However, in the interval from Adam to Moses sin was in control ruling over even those who have not sinned in the same way as the transgression of Adam.  Actually, Adam  represented in advance the one who was to come," (verses twelve through fourteen).

3.  Two persons appear in the second half of chapter five.  The one is Adam the first man who sinned appearing on the stage in Genesis and the other is Jesus Christ.  These two men are related to us in their respective ways.  First, Adam.  We have a deep tie to Adam.  The reason [we have a connection to] Adam is not because he is our biological ancestor.  If that were the case then for those who put off Genesis as an ancient myth that has nothing to do with them,  Adam would come to have no connection to them whatsoever.  But, the narrative of Adam is not simply a story of the origin of humankind, but a narrative of the origin of sin.  Besides that, "Adam" was not originally a proper noun or name, but comes from the word for "earth, dirt (adamah)," and is a common noun to express "man, a person."  (Genesis 2:7)  That is, the story of Adam is not a so-called "ancient tale from once upon a time," but is "a story of humankind."  It is a story telling about the universality of sin throughout all humanity.  Since that is the case, no one can say he or she is unrelated to Adam.  As you know, in the OT, Adam is depicted as a person who sinned rebelling against God.  And the unmistakable truth is that there is sin in us, too.  It says Adam "will surely die" as a person who has sinned.  The unmistakable truth is that we also "will surely die" as persons who have sinned.  What the scripture says definitely applies to all of us: "As sin entered the world and death came in through sin, sin came to all people."  In that sense we are certainly descendants of Adam.

4.  Verses thirteen and fourteen [serve as] an explanation for the person who does not understand this.  By applying a straight ruler, a crooked line is recognized as crooked.  Similarly, for example, coveting is recognized as sin from "Thou shalt not covet" being written in the scriptures.  Certainly we could say that sin is first recognized as sin since we have a standard for righteousness.  "Unless there is a law, sin is not recognized as sin."  But, does sin exist if it is not recognized?  Yes, it still does.  Even if sin is not recognized, it does exist very seriously as sin.  The scriptures in verses thirteen and fourteen make this point concisely.  That there is sin in all persons we know because death rules everyone.  If there were no sin, there would not be a break with God.  If there were no sin, a person would be one with God.  If there were no sin, we'd expect to be one with the eternal God.  If there were no sin, we'd expect to be one with God the source of life.  And so, if there were no sin, we should not need to fear death because we would be connected to life and because death would not have rule.  But, in reality death does firmly rule over humankind.  Why does it?  Because there is sin in all persons.  All have sin, all are under the rule of death. Humankind is certainly connected to Adam as a people [under sin and death.]  No one can reject this Genesis account as if it were an ancient tale.  The connection to Adam of sin and death has significance because of the fatal reality which we humans universally bear.

5.  However, Paul then begins to tell in the text about another individual related to all of humanity.  It is Christ.  Christ has come into the world of humanity that stretches back to Adam.  Paul says, "Actually, Adam represented in advance the one who was to come."  In other words, it means Christ came as what we could call a second Adam.  If humanity were only  linked to Adam, there wouldn't be any hope at all for us in that.  What kind of hope could there be where only sin and death ruled?  But, God gave us another Adam to whom we ought to be joined. That [other Adam] is Christ.  The first Adam is depicted as the ancestor of humanity pertaining to this temporary world.  Those who go back to Adam belong to this world where sin and death rule.  But, Christ is the second Adam resurrected.  The scriptures say that "Jesus was delivered over to death for our sins and was resurrected for our justification," (4:25).  He is not of this world, but is the second Adam belonging to the world to come.  He is the second Adam belonging to the coming world where grace and life rule.  What will the second Adam bring for us?  Paul clarifies in verses fifteen onward how a person becomes joined to Christ and not linked to only Adam.

The Universality Of Salvation


"However, the gift of grace is no comparison to sin.  If by the sin of one person, many persons came to die, how much more is the grace of God and the gift of the grace of the one man Jesus Christ poured out richly upon many persons! This gift is nothing like that which was started by the one person who sinned.  In a court room trial, even with one sin a judicial decision of guilt is handed down, but when grace is at work, it matters not how many sins there are because a decision of innocence is handed down.  If by the sin of one person sin and death have come to rule through that one person, how much more will the person who has abundantly received the grace of God and the gift of righteousness live through the one man Jesus Christ and come to rule! Therefore, just as by the sin of one man the decision of guilt has been handed down to all persons, [so] by the righteous actions of one man all persons are justified and come to obtain life.  Just as by the disobedience of one man many persons are made into sinners, [so] are many persons made righteous by the obedience of one man," (verses fifteen through nineteen).

7.  A contrast is made here between the sin and death brought by Adam and the righteousness and life brought by Christ.  The point of the argument is extremely clear.  As the bond with Adam represents the universality of sin and death, it is the universality of salvation based in Christ that is described starting in verse fifteen.  Even more, what Paul wants to say is that the salvation brought by Christ is such a great thing that sin can't be compared with it.

8.  We certainly are Adam's descendants.  We know no way to get the victory over this fact of reality in our own strength.  But, Christ has brought great grace, righteousness, and life for us.  The power of death is certainly strong and everyone dies.  But, the grace of God is stronger than either sin or death.  The free gift given by Jesus Christ is greater than both sin and death.  Furthermore, the righteousness of God is stronger than the judgment.  The principle of judgment brings the announcement of guilt by one sin.  But, the righteousness of God based on grace overturns that principle.  When grace is at work and the righteousness of God is given, no matter how much sin there is, the decision of not guilty is handed down.  Thus, if a person does not go only back to Adam, but is joined to Christ and has received the grace of God and the gift of righteousness abundantly, death will no longer rule over that person. That person is no longer under the control of evil.  A person does not need to live as a slave being worked over by the destructive powers of sin and death.  If he or she has abundantly received the grace of God and the gift of righteousness, he or she can obtain true life. Furthermore, life is stronger than death.  Thus, it says that "the person who has abundantly received the grace of God and the gift of righteousness will live through the one man Jesus Christ and come to rule."

9.  We want to fully appreciate the meaning of these words.  "The person who has abundantly received the grace of God and the gift of righteousness will live through the one man Jesus Christ and come to rule." By nature people want to live in control of things.  Everyone is like that.  But, when the descendants of Adam apart from God wanted to live in control over things, in the final analysis, they found themselves enslaved.  When they tried to live in control of themselves, in control of their surroundings, in control of their own lives as well as the lives of others, and even in control of God, in reality, they inevitably came to discover themselves as only miserable slaves.  The slaves of sin, the slaves of death find out they are only powerless slaves without any freedom.  How miserable are the descendants of Adam who thought they would be rulers without God or in God's place!  Yet, people no longer need to groan.  The grace of God and the gift of righteousness set us free.  Through Christ we can in a true sense "live" because life works in us, sets us free, and rules through us over the power of death.

10.  It's the gift that's brought by one man, Christ.  It is not by our righteousness.  It is not by our meritorious achievement.  It is based solely on Christ.  This matter is clarified in verses eighteen and nineteen.  It is based on the righteous actions of Christ that we are made righteous and come to get life.  It is based only on Christ's obedience that many people are made into righteous persons despite their sins.  It is based on that obedience of Christ when he humbled himself before God and went to die, and even went to a death on the cross.  We only take a share in the results of Christ's actions and obedience.

As A New Person

11.  So far Paul has been speaking by contrasting Adam and Christ.  As is already clear, when Paul took up the narrative on Adam it was not to discuss an origin of humanity, but to speak on the other man Christ.  Therefore, Paul records in verses twenty and following what he said at the last, going outside the framework of the speech dealing with the contrast between Adam and Christ.


"The law came in so that sin would increase.  But wherever sin increased, grace all the more became abundant.  Thus, as sin ruled through death and while grace also ruled through righteousness it leads to eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ," (verses twenty to twenty-one).

13.  The Jews believed and did not doubt that - the law frees humanity from sin and leads [persons] to eternal life.  Therefore, they were proud to have the law of God.  However, the law did not actually set them free from sin.  Paul looks hard at this reality and speaks on what the law is.  He says having the law "is so that sin would increase."  It would not be true at all if we'd say that sin would stop if you have a commandment [against it], instead sin increases more and more in power and spreads.  This is the universal experience of humanity.  Also, as I mentioned before, as a commandment makes clear sin's sinfulness, sin is recognized beyond all doubt as an evil.  The fact that sin increases through the law in this way does arise as a fact of reality.  So, is the law an evil thing?  Since this matter is discussed in detail later in chapter seven, I want to turn there, but I'd like us to look only at a couple of verses beginning with chapter seven and verse twelve.


"Thus, the law is holy, the commandments are also holy, righteous, and good.  Then, did a good thing become something that brings death on me?  That is not so.  In truth, sin, in order to show its true character, brought death to me through a good thing.  Thus, in this manner sin was shown through the law to be an evil without limits," (7:12-13).

15.  In other words, to put it simply, the law is not evil, but through the law sin displays its truest nature.  Sin which has had humanity under its control comes unstuck from its disguise through the law of God and reveals its grotesque side.  By knowing the law of God we confront the grotesque figure of the monster of sin which reigns over humanity and we are driven to the point where we can't avoid despairing.  So then, unless Christ is present, we only have despair.  But, grace is stronger than sin!  "But, when sin increased, grace abounded all the more," says Paul.  The need for a person to despair is gone because whenever a person completely loses hope for himself or herself, grace that is all the more bountiful is given and overturns that despair.

16.  If we are joined to Christ, we are no longer the old type of person that goes back to Adam alone.  We are not the old creations.  We are not the old creatures under the control of sin that brings forth death.  If we are connected to Christ, we are new creations.  We are a new humanity, new persons.  When sin increased, grace all the more abounded.  If we are joined to Christ and live as new creations, the grace which brings forth righteousness controls us and leads to eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ.

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