What About Godís Grace?

Explore the Bible Series

October 16, 2005


Lesson Passage: Romans 5:12-21


Introduction: Romans 5:12 is one of the most important verses in this epistle.Bible students have vigorously disagreed about the meaning of this text, but the grammar and vocabulary seem unmistakable.We can, it seems to me, have little doubt about what the words say.The problem arises when we try to determine what the words mean.Paul made five claims.

  1. Sin entered the world through one man- Adam.
  2. When sin entered the world, death came with it. There is a deep and inviolable bond between sin and death.
  3. Death, the ever-present companion of sin, spread (came through) to all men.
  4. In Adamís sin, all men sinned.
  5. Just as all men (who are in Adam) sinned; so, all who are in Christ are justified and have eternal life.


Romans 5:12-21 requires serious Bible students to answer some very difficult and important questions.



Throughout the passage, Paul compared and contrasted Adam and Christ.Human beings do not naturally think of themselves in the terms the apostle introduced in this text (This, I think, is particularly true of Americans). Paul claimed that men share a certain solidarity with the entire human race.All are born ďin Adam.ĒThis theological principle seems particularly unappealing to self-righteous persons who errantly believe they can establish their own righteousness through meritorious acts.Corley and Vaughan observed, ďThe connection with Adam, which all have, is natural.To be a member of the human race is to be related to him.The connection with Christ, however, is spiritual, and only believers have that (See I Corinthians 15:20-28).


Outline of the Lesson Passage:


I.       Paulís Comparison of Adam and Christ (5:12-14)

A.     Paulís observations concerning Adam (v. 12)

1.      Sin entered the world through Adam (v. 12a): This phrase clearly refers to Adamís sin in the Garden of Eden (See Genesis 3:1-7). The Genesis account affirms manís original innocence. God created mankind in a state of righteousness, but humans did not retain their original holiness. God gave the man clear instructions concerning the tree in the midst of the garden (See Genesis 2:16-17).Adam was not to eat of the tree, and, if he did, the he would surely die.

2.      Death entered through sin (5:12b): Sin opened the door, and death entered human history. God always keeps his promises, for weal or woe.The Lord had promised Adam that death would result from eating fruit from the tree, and our first parents willfully and knowingly disregarded the command of the Lord.

3.      All men sinned in Adam (5:12c): Even the story of the Fall affirms the significance of Adamís sin. Though Eve sinned before her husband, it was Adamís trespass that carried the catastrophic consequence.Adam stood as the progenitor of the human race, and his descendants suffer the consequence of their first fatherís transgression.

B.     The Expansion of Paulís Argument (vv. 13-14): Paul strengthened his argument by pointing out the mortality of men (as the consequence of the Fall) in the centuries between the Fall and the giving of the Law to Moses. Men, of course, lived in disobedience to God during this vast period, but God had not yet given the Law.Men did not sin, during this era, in the same way Adam did; that is, they did not specifically disobey an expressed command of God.They sinned in Adam; thus, they suffered the consequence of death.

C.     Paulís observations concerning Christ:Paul ended verse fourteen with a comparison of Adam and Christ.This comparison is also implied at the end of verse twelve.The New American Standard Version ends this verse with a dash, indicating a break in the sentence.The verse implies that just as sin and death spread to the descendants of Adam, the people who are in Christ would inherit righteousness and life.Verse fourteen states explicitly that Adam is a type of Christ.The ďhim who was to comeĒ, of course, refers to Christ.As Adamís calamitous act brought immeasurable suffering to all, so, by the one act of Jesus, all who are in Christ will receive righteousness and life.


II.     Paulís Contrast Between Adam and Christ (5:15-17)

A.     By Adamís sin, many died, but by Christís gift, many receive the grace of God. ďThe free gift is not like the transgressionĒ (v. 15).

1.      The gift is free.

2.      The gift came by grace; that is, the recipient did not deserve the gift.

3.      The gift came by the grace of the One Man.Christ serves as the mediator and agent of the gift of grace.

4.      The gift abounds to many.God pours out the abundance of his mercies to many.This truth should inflame and encourage our passion for evangelism.

B.     The consequences of Adamís sin differ from the results of Christís gift (vv. 16-17).

1.      Adamís sin brought judgment, condemnation, and death.

2.      Godís gift of Christ brought justification and abundance of grace.


III.  Paulís Conclusions Concerning Adam and Christ (5:18-21)

A.     Adamís transgression resulted in the condemnation of all men, but the by the one act of Christ, justification came to all men (v. 18).If taken in isolation, this verse appears to teach Universalism; however, this would contradict the clear teaching of the rest of the book of Romans.The text means, it would seem, that all men who are, by nature, in Adam will suffer the consequence of Adamís sin.Those who are in Christ will be justified and receive the gift of life.

B.     Adamís disobedience made many sinners, but Christís obedience made many men righteous (v. 19).

C.     The Law came that the enormity of sin might be seen, but where sin was increased, grace abounded all the more (v. 20).

D.     In Adam, sin reigned in death, but in Christ grace reigns through righteousness to eternal life (v. 21).


Discussion Questions:

        Do any of the following views fit this text?

(1)               The Pelagian View: Pelagius taught that no vital connection exists between Adam and the human race. Each person is born in a righteous state and becomes a sinner when he deliberately and consciously disobeys Godís commandments.Adam merely serves as a bad example to the human race, and every man is his own Adam.Ē

(2)               The Arminian View: Jacob Arminius believed that humans do inherit a fallen, corrupt nature from Adam.ďPrevenient graceĒ removes the certain aspects of the consequences of Adamís sin. Men are, therefore, born with an inclination to sin, but grace restores free will for every man.

(3)               The Catholic View: Catholics agree that Adamís sin has sobering consequences, but they do not hold that original sin includes a positive inclination to moral evil.Instead, original sin is a lack of facility for doing good.Baptism, in the Catholic theological system, cleanses a person from original sin. Also, Catholics believe that the Virgin Mary was born without original sin.

(4)               The London Confession of 1689 (Chapter 6, Article 2): ďOur first parents, but this sin, fell from their original righteousness and communion with God, and we in them, whereby death came upon all: all becoming dead in sin and wholly defiled in all faculties and parts of soul and body.Ē

        What influence should this text have on our practice of evangelism? What does this text indicate about the state of every lost man?


Personal note: I realize that the doctrine of original sin troubles many people because of its implications for those who die in infancy or suffer from severe mental disability.I must confess that I do not know the answer to this puzzling issue.Of course, I am aware of the traditional arguments, and I understand Davidís remark about the death of his child (See II Samuel 12:23).Basing oneís theological understanding on a historical text like this seems precarious to me.For me, I must leave this profound question to the lovingkindness and wisdom of the Lord (See Deuteronomy 29:29)