Part 2—Verses 12-21

This passage has been usually regarded as the most difficult part of the New Testament The plain and obvious design of the passage is this– to show one of the benefits of the doctrine of Justification by Faith

In verses 12-21 we will see:
The Reign of Grace through ChristHere we have a study of contrasts; of twos.

The Two Men:
1.      ADAM
2.      CHRIST (v. 14)

The Two Facts:
1.      ADAM:  One trespass:  (vv. 12, 15, 17-19)
2.      CHRIST:  One righteous act (on the cross)—v. 18.

The Two Results:
1.      By ADAM:  Condemnation, guilt, Death (vv. 15-16, 18-19).
2.      By CHRIST:  Justification, life, kingship (vv. 17-19)

The Two Differences:
In DEGREE: (v. 15)
      God the Creator's grace by Christ abounds beyond the sin of the creature (ADAM).
In KIND or OPERATION (v. 16):
1.      One sin, by Adam—condemnation and reign of Death.
2.     Man sins placed on Christ—Justification and “reigning in life” for those accepting God’s grace by Him.

The two KINGS:
1.     Reigning through Death  (v. 17)
2.     Reigning through RIGHTEOUSNESS (v. 21)

The Two ABUNDANCES: (v. 17)
1.      Of GRACE:

1.      Condemned men, slaves of Death by ADAM.
2.      Justified men, reigning in life, by CHRIST.

“Whereas as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.”
Paul is beginning a comparison between the effects of Adam’s sin and the effects of the redemptive work of Christ’s
Death and the certainty of our future final salvation by His life.

            WHEREAS:   (Grk.–dia touto)– Literally: “because of this; therefore; for this reason.”–What reason? 
            Referring back to Paul’s arguments of in verses 1-11

“As by one man”
Literally:  “through one man.”  That is, by means of one man; by the crime of one man–referring to Adam, who is mentioned, but not Eve, as being the representative of mankind.

         This man Adam was the channel through which sin entered into the human race.  Paul here refers to that well-known historical fact, (Gen. 3:6-7) without any explanation of the mode or cause of this.  He put it forward as a fact that was well known; and he evidently meant to speak of it not for the purpose of explaining the mode, or even of making this the leading or prominent topic in the discussion. His main purpose is to show that the work of Christ meets and removes well-known and extensive evils wrought on the race by the work of Adam.
         Adam is here viewed as the federal ahead of the human race, and so when he sinned, ALL of humanity sinned in him.  It is Adam’s initial sin that made him a sinner in which all human beings participated, and which brings death upon all.  His action brought about the introduction of all sin into all the world.
          “As by one man sin entered into the world, etc., so by the work of Christ a remedy has been provided, commensurate with the evils. As the sin of one man had such an influence, so the work of the Redeemer has an influence to meet and to counteract those evils.”  The passage in verses 13-17 is therefore to be regarded as a parenthesis thrown in for the purpose of making explanations, and to show how the cases of Adam and of Christ differed from each other.

                  AS:  (Grk.–hosper)–This is the form of a comparison. But the other part of the comparison is deferred to (v. 18).

In this verse, Paul begins a comparison between Adam and Christ, the same for substance as that contained in verses 18-19. But before completing it, he pauses to throw in sundry remarks pertaining to it. Death by sin; as a consequence of sin.  And so; Death passed upon all; all became subject to it.   

“sin entered into the world”As the penalty of sin.  There was neither sin nor Death before the offense of Adam; after that there were both. Adam's transgression was therefore the cause of both. Sin originated with the angel Lucifer, who, in rebelling against God, contracted a sinful nature. 

            SIN: (Grk.–hamartia)–This evidently means the violation of the law of God. Considered here in its guilt, criminality, penal desert. Here Paul presents a personification of sin and represented as coming from the outside into the world of humanity.

         Adam was the first sinner of the race.  He was the first sinner among men, and in consequence all others became sinners.  Paul does not discuss the origin of evil beyond this fact. The word sin here evidently means the violation of the law of God. He was the first sinner among men, and in consequence all others became sinners. Paul does not refer to Satan, the tempter, though he was the suggester of evil.            
         Paul’s purpose was to discuss the effect of the Plan of Salvation in meeting the sins and calamities of our race. This design, therefore, did not require him to introduce the sin of another order of beings, he says, therefore, that Adam was the first sinner of the race, and that death was the consequence. There are some today who deny the fact of sin at all and who call it merely “an error of mortal mind” (i.e., a notion) while others regard it as merely an animal inheritance devoid of ethical quality.  These are the thoughts that have pervaded America and its teachers, political and military leaders, and sadly, most of its preachers.         

          WORLD:  (Grk.–kosmos)–Meaning the world of mankind; the human race.  This is the same Greek word used in John 3:16. Sin entered in among mankind.

Paul does not refer to Satan, the  tempter , though he was the suggester of evil; for his aim was to discuss the effect of the Plan of Salvation in meeting the sins and calamities of our race. Paul tells us that the reason why death affect us all, is because ALL have sinned.  His aim, did not require him to introduce the sin of another order of beings; therefore, he says, that Adam was the first sinner of the race, and that death was the consequence.                

         “and death by sin”
         Literally:  “And death through sin.”–Therefore it could not enter before sin. 

      Death was the consequence of sin; or was introduced because man sinned.  A more literal rendering of this might read, “And thus into all men death came throughout”–Wuest, Word Studies in the Greek N.T.            
         There was NO
Death before there was sin.  This destroys the erroneous theory that demons are the dis-embodied spirits of a pre-Adamic race that died out; or that the creation account in Genesis 1 is some sore of a re-creation. Death was led in by sin. Had there been no sin, there had been no death. “The tree of life stood in the midst of the garden” (Gen. 2:9). Natural evil is evidently the effect of moral evil; if man had never sinned, he had never suffered. Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return, was never spoken till after Adam had eaten the forbidden fruit.

        DEATH (Grk.–thanatos)-By “death” in Gen. 2:17; 3:19 physical Death is meant, but in verses 17, 21 eternal Death is Paul's idea and that lurks constantly behind physical Death with Paul. When Death entered into the human race, it went through all the race, affecting everyone.

         Created man was told not to violate a simple law of God’s, on pain of  Death .  He did so, and God announced to him that the sentence would be inflicted, and that he would return to the dust from whence he was taken.
         This is a simple statement of an obvious and well-known fact. It is repeating simply what is said in Gen. 3:19, “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” The threatening was, (Gen. 2:17), “Of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it, for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” 

         “death passed upon all men.
         As the result of one man's (
Adam’s) sin,
Death passed through the entire human race; pervaded the race; spread over the entire race, as a pestilence passes through.

Thus; Death , with its train of woes, with its withering and blighting influence, has passed through the world, laying waste all before it.   Death is a divine decree:  “It is appointed unto men once to die, and this cometh judgment.” 

“for that all have sinned”
“Inasmuch as all sinned.”–The personal sins of responsible persons are not now spoken of, but all the race sinned in Adam, its representative, infants, and all. Hence all die.

         All have sinned in Adam.  These words assign the reason why death came upon all men;, in that all sinned; infants themselves not excepted..  The personal sins of responsible persons are not now spoken of, but all the race sinned in Adam, its representative.  Hence all die. All are born with a sinful nature; and the seeds of this evil soon vegetate, and bring forth corresponding fruits.
         There has never been one instance of an immaculate human soul since the fall of Adam. Every man sins, and sins too after the example of Adam's transgression. Adam endeavored to be independent of God; all his offspring act in the same way: hence prayer is little used, because prayer is the
language of dependence; and this is inconsistent with every emotion of original sin. When these degenerate children of degenerate parents are detected in their sins, they act just as their parents did; each excuses himself, and lays the blame on another. “What hast thou done?—The woman whom THOU gavest me, to be with me; SHE gave me, and I did eat. What hast THOU done? The SERPENT beguiled me, and I did eat.” Thus, it is extremely difficult to find a person who ingenuously acknowledges his own transgressions.

         Here we should have expected Paul to finish his sentence, in some such way as this: “Even so, by one man righteousness has entered into the world, and life by righteousness;” but instead of this, we see a digression.   Paul goes back five verses to illustrate the important statement of this verse  and it is only at verse:18 that the comparison is resumed and finished.

“For until the Law sin was in the world; but sin is not imputed when there is no law.”

         “For until the law sin was in the world”
         “For sin was in {the} world until Law.”–Before the Law was written, or communicated by Moses

         This is the first of the parenthetical verses.  The Law here refers to the Law of Moses.  Until the commencement of that administration, or state of things under the Law. To see the reason why Paul referred to this period between Adam and the Law, we should recall the plan of Paul’s, which is to show the exceeding grace of God in the Gospel, abounding, and super abounding, as a complete remedy for all the evils introduced by sin.
        All men sinned. They all did that which was evil. Paul now shows that all must have sinned in Adam. Until law is given sin is not imputed. Yet sin must have been in the world from the time of Adam until the law of Moses, because The word sin here evidently means the violation of the law of God. Adam was the first sinner among men, and in consequence all others became sinners.
        Sin was there before the Mosaic law, for the Jews were like Gentiles who had the law of reason and conscience (2:12-16), but the coming of the Mosaic Law increased their responsibility and their guilt (2:9).

“but sin is not imputed when there is no law.”
Literally:  “But sin is not charge {if} there is no law.”  Is not charged on men, or they are not held guilty of it where there is no law. 

         Sin is a violation of law, and if there is no law, there can be no wrong or violation.  As there was no written law from Adam to that given to Moses, the death that prevailed could not be the breach of that law; for sin, so as to be punished with temporal death, is not imputed where there is no law, which shows the penalty of sin to be death.  Therefore, men are not subjected to death for their own personal transgressions, but for the sin of Adam; as, through his transgression, all come into the world with the seeds of death and corruption in their own nature, superadded to their moral depravity. 
         All are sinful:  all are mortal-and all must die.  Assuming this as a self-evident proposition, the connection is, that there must have been a law of some kind; “a law written on their hearts,” since sin was in the world, and men could not be charged with sin, or treated as sinners, unless there was some law.
         The passage here states a great and important principle, that men will not be held to be guilty unless there is a law which binds them, of which they are apprized, and which they voluntarily transgress. This verse, therefore, meets an objection that might be started from what had been said in 4:15. Paul had affirmed, that “where no law is there is no transgression.”   Paul has stated that all were sinners. It might be objected, that as during this long period of time they had no law, they could not be sinners. To meet this, he says that men were then in fact sinners, and were treated as such, which showed that there must have been a law.

           IMPUTE:  (Grk.–ellogeō)-Literally:  “charged; charge to one’s account; keep record of.”  This word was a Greek technical term meaning, “to charge to one’s account.”

“Nevertheless, death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of Him that was to come.”

         Literally:  “but”–Notwithstanding that sin is not imputed where there is no law, yet death  reigned.
         “death reigned”–People died; they were under the dominion of death in  its various influences. 

This phrase represents death as a monarch; having dominion over all that period, and over all those generations.  Under death’s dark and withering reign men sank down to the grave. We have a similar expression when we represent death as “the king of terrors.” It is a striking and affecting personification, for:
1.      Death's reign is absolute.
         He strikes down whom he pleases, and when he pleases.
Death offers no escape.
         All must bow to his scepter, and be humbled beneath his hand.
Death is universal.
         Old and young alike are the subjects of Death’s gloomy empire.
Death would be an eternal reign if it were not for the g
        It would shed unmitigated woes upon the earth; and the silent tread of this terrific king would produce only desolation and tears forever
None could escape death’s universal dominion. He reigned:
        a. Although law had not come;
        b.     Those over whom death reigned had not repeated Adam's sin.
        c. Unconscious infants could not have sinned against natural law.
The inference is that all had sinned in Adam. Hence, again, Adam is a representative of all the race,

From the time when God gave one revealed law to Adam, to the time when another revealed law was given to Moses. This was a period of 2500 years; no inconsiderable portion of the history of the world.  The fact that they died is alleged by Paul as full proof that they were sinners; and that sin had therefore scattered extensive and appalling woes among men.

         “even over them”
         Literally:  “Even on the {ones}”– Over all those generations.

The point or emphasis of the remark here is, that it reigned over those that had sinned under a different economy from that of Adam. This was that which rendered it so remarkable; and which showed that the withering curse of sin had been felt in all dispensations, and in all times.

         “Them that had not sinned”    
         Literally: “Not sinning.”–But who are they?–a much contested question.

         Some believe that Paul is referring to infants, who being guiltless of actual sin, may be said not to have sinned in the way that Adam did.  UNDERSTAND:  That infants, as soon as they live, have in them sin, (the old sin nature; the old man), which is the seed of death.  Understand that sin is the seed of death: the principle of corruption.  God does infants no wrong when they die:  their death is of themselves, for they have the seeds of death in themselves. 
         All death is the wages of sin, and therefore can be no injustice to the sinner; thus death reigned form Adam to Moses, yea, even to this day; and, like an insatiable tyrant, will continue to reign and slay universally, and beyond number, from the infant to the aged, from the dunghill to the throne, sparing neither age nor sex, neither great nor small, neither sacred nor profane..

“after the similitude”
Literally: “On the likeness.”–In the same way; in like manner; or as.  This a Hebraism, denoting in like manner, or as.
“of Adam's transgression”–When Adam broke a plain, positive, revealed law.  This transgression was the open violation of a positive precept; theirs the violation of the laws   communicated in a different way–by tradition, reason, conscience, etc. 

         “who is the figure”
         Literally:  “Who is the type;  or image.” Here Adam is declared to be a type of the One  Who was to come; that is, of Christ, the last Adam. 

                        FIGURE:  (Grk.–typon)– This word is used 16 times in the N.T. A “type” may   mean either:

1.      An “impression, note or mark” which is made by percussion; i.e., a stamped image.
2.      An effigy or image” which is made or formed by a rule; a model.
3.      A brief argument or summary (Acts 23:25).
4.      A rule of doctrine, or law, or form of doctrine (Rom. 6:17).
5.      A example or model to be imitated.
While Adam is a type of Christ, there is a great difference. One kills, the other makes alive. “If through the sins of the one the many (the world of mankind) died,” through the gracious gift of God.

“of Him that was to come”
Literally:  “Of the coming {One}.”–That is, of Christ.

This clause is inserted on the first mention of the name Adam, the one man of whom he is speaking, to recall the purpose for which he is treating of him, as the figure of Christ. A type of Christ, likewise a representative of all the race. Through the one all have sinned; through the other all are made righteous, as far as the sin in Adam is involved.