Adam and Sin, Jesus and Grace
MAIN IDEA & OUTLINE
All are guilty of sin both because of Adam’s sin which he passed down to all mankind and by their own wrongdoing. None can escape the consequence of sin except by faith in Christ who justifies all who accept Him. Christ alone justifies a sinner because grace, based on His righteous life and death is stronger than sin.
- Sin was introduced by Adam in the garden, but all are guilty of sin. 5:12-14
- Contrast between Adam and Christ headship. 5:15-17
- Grace abounds more than sin multiplies. 5:18-21
The book of Romans is overflowing with the ideas of righteousness, faith, justification, and sin. In chapter one, Paul shows how only the righteous will live by faith (1:17b). He then moves on to say that all sin against God. The Jew who has the Law sins knowing the Law and the Gentile without the Law sins against the moral law written on their hearts. In this way, there is no one who understands… no one who seeks God (3:11). Moving forward Paul takes his reader back to Abraham showing that righteousness can only come by faith because Abraham believed, and it was by faith that God credited righteousness to him. There are no works of the Law that a believer can be justified by, because the righteousness that is required is only offered through Christ and by faith in Him. In the latter half of chapter 5, Paul tackles the issues of sin and grace, condemnation and justification, and Adam and Christ’s respective headships.
One difficulty is understanding some of these items in a cross-cultural setting. However, because the Bible was written in a cross-cultural setting one can expect to find answers or clues in the text as well as in understanding the biblical concepts of sin and grace. Such questions that will be explored include what does Paul teach on the topic of original sin and a sin nature? If he does teach on original sin, how is to be understood in a culture where no such concept exists? If Paul argues for universal sin does, he also argue for universal salvation i.e. universalism? What will be shown is the main contrasts are Adam and sin against Christ and grace. In short, Paul argues that while Adam’s headship and the consequence of his sin affect all of humanity Jesus and the consequence of His righteous act affect all of humanity as well because grace abounds over sin.
Paul is identified as the author in Romans in 1:1 although as was common in his day the letter was penned by another named Tertius (16:22). There is discussion as to whether the last two chapters were added later with some suggesting that the bulk of the letter was meant to be a circular letter. Regardless, Romans is one of the few Pauline letters to have near universal acceptance as being authentic to Paul and being time appropriate. The date of writing is estimated to be around A.D. 57. This is important because this shows the spread of Christianity to Rome only some 20 years after the death of Christ. The young church had to rapidly deal with not only understanding its faith but understanding that faith in a cross-cultural context.
While at times in church history Romans was thought to be Paul’s magnum opus it is now better understood as a personal letter to a particular church and not a general treatise on the faith. One obvious reason for writing was that Paul was attempting to raise support for his trip to Spain (15:28) however this is not simply a fundraising letter. The letter to the Romans is one of Paul’s greatest writings and “has always stood at the head of Paul’s letters” because of the many topics Paul deals with in the letter to the Romans. In this one letter Paul deals with or addresses most major Christian themes, however, justification and righteousness sit high on the top of the list of items being discussed.
As will be seen in chapter 5 Paul lumps all of humanity into belonging to either Adam or Christ. In other letters, the contrast is on flesh or Spirit, but the implication is the same. Paul uses the word anthropos in chapter 5 which is sometimes translated man, but it is a term that generally means a human being and includes all peoples. Paul provides no escape for any individual but instead carefully states that all humanity is under the effects of sin. Paul’s scope is to show the contrasts between Adam and Christ and how all of humanity is affected by their choices.
In looking at the type of writing for Romans 5:12-21 Bailey and Broek argue that Paul is writing a type of Midrash or interpretation called “typological interpretation.” What is meant by this is that Paul is not quoting the Old Testament and giving it new meaning in light of Christ which he often does, but he is giving a type and antitype. Paul’s focus is on the world systems that can be summed up by the ones who have headship over each system. Adam represents sin and death while Jesus represents grace and life.
Paul writes that sin entered the world through one man (Adam) and because of this all sin and die. Some argue that was in fact Eve who sinned because of 1 Tim 2:14, however, Adam was the one charged with protecting the garden and delivering the message of what was allowed and what was prohibited to Eve. It was under Adam’s watch that the serpent was able to deceive Eve. The language of Genesis 3:6 shows that Adam was with her when she took the fruit. Adam’s failure was not a single incident but a willful and deliberate act of rebellion against God. Adam’s sin, cannot be blamed on Eve, but it can and does as Paul explains have repercussions for all who have come after him.
Martin Luther and Augustine claim that the language of Romans 5:12 can mean that either all sinned because Adam sinned or that all sin and have guilt. Possibly what is being said is that “while one sinned, all sinned” meaning all act just like their father Adam. The question of original sin has been debated through the eons but what is clear is that all men sin. Regardless of whether all are sinners because of an original sin which they multiply with their own or they are born with a propensity to sin which they give into, the result is the same and none can stand blameless before God. That being said Scripture seems to point to original sin.
All then are guilty of sin and the failure of Adam brought in both sin itself and the inclination of man to sin because Adam is the original man, and all follow after him. Many cultures around the world understand the concept of headship in this way because they either live in collectivist societies or because they place great importance on tribal lineage. For the original Jewish believers this would have made sense because of their history and because of passages like Deut 12:28 which as Manheim Kiester says, people should obey the “commandments in order to acquire merit” for those coming after them. The same is true in the reverse that descendants could be punished for the wrongdoing of a forbearer. This was not because a sin deserved a long punishment but because the children would go after the ways of their father. This can be seen 2 Kings 17:14 where it is recorded that the people became obstinate like their ancestors. Keister points to the Sifra to show that the Jews firmly believed that those who followed in sin were connected to Adam. It is largely only Western individualistic cultures that have a hard time accepting the idea that the sin of an ancestor can affect someone today.
Briefly, as it pertains to the giving of the law and sin being charged to a person’s account (v13). It should not be thought that sin did not exist from Adam until Moses, but that sin was not charged against them according to the Law because the Law had not been given. That sin and the effect of sin, that is death, did exist is obvious as all died minus the notable exceptions of Enoch and Elijah. This reflects what Paul argues earlier in Romans that God will repay back to each one according to his works (2:6-11) whether they have the Law or not. There are none who can resist His righteous judgment.
As it pertains to death there is an argument that Adam was mortal from the beginning and the death, he suffered was a spiritual death and not a physical one. Colin Kruse says that this position seems to run contrary to Genesis 3:22 where God states that if Adam were to eat of the tree of life he would live forever. While this is true, an argument against Kruse would be that Adam was mortal and could live forever only if he ate from the tree of life continually. Looked at in this light the grace of God is seen in that He prohibits Adam and Eve from physically living forever while in spiritual death. Either way, there can be no certain conclusion. What is clearly seen however is that men sin and die and that death reigned from Adam to Moses (v14).
Paul ends discussion on the entry of sin into the world by making a statement that is easily read over but important. Paul states that in light of all he has said Adam was a prototype of the Coming One who is Jesus Christ. This is Paul’s typological argument mentioned previously. If Adam is a head, then Jesus is a head. If Adam passed on something to all, then Jesus passes on something as well. Just as one has headship the other has headship. The linking of these two in this statement is of great importance, however, Adam was a prototype or figure so there are “differences as well as similarities.” As such Paul can move to the differences between Adam and Christ and in doing so the differences between what Adam gave and what Christ gives.
In the next section Paul lists multiple contrasts. These contrasts are based on Adam and Jesus but go beyond simply comparing them as individuals to the results of their individual deeds and the outcome for others. To start with, Paul compares Adam’s trespass with Christ’s gift in saying that the gift is not like the trespass. The trespass is sin leading to death, but the gift and the gift giver are far greater because the gift of grace is given not to cover only the sin of Adam but in the “many acts of sin” that his descendants have committed. Adam brought sin itself into the world, but men sin many kinds of sin. In this, the gift of grace and righteousness must be greater than the trespass. More than that the gift not only forgives sin but brings life and this is yet another point of contrast from Paul.
Death is the result of sin, but life is the result of the gift of grace and righteousness. Peter argues against the Jews in Acts 3:15 that they killed the author of life. It could be argued then that not only is Adam the father of all, but he is the father of death. Adam’s sin brought not only death but in that it brought condemnation. To die would be one thing but to be condemned and forbidden to enter into the presence of a Holy God another thing entirely. This is a simple phrase that can be overlooked but the condemned are separated from God eternally. Again, the gift is greater than the trespass because it results in justification as well. If condemnation prohibits one from standing before God, then justification is when God “judicially declares a believing sinner… righteous and acceptable.” This is why justification by faith alone stands tall in the Protestant Christian faith.
Justification, as used here, is dikaioma and refers to the righteous act of Christ in obedience to death on the cross which is “accomplished consistently with God’s character.” Again, the gift is beyond what the trespass caused. God in forgiving and crediting Christ’s righteousness to the believer is an act that is consistent with His nature. An understanding of this allows the believer to move beyond a superficial faith into one that can understand their right standing with Christ and their placement with Him as Paul discusses in Colossians 3:3-4.
It is from this place that one can move to an understanding that while the relationship with Adam that brings death does exist, the “spiritual connection with Christ” brings a full life that includes a right standing before the Father. Paul is arguing not only for the sinfulness of man but a joyful union with Christ that includes a gift of a righteous reign (5:17b). Jesus speaks to this in John 10:10 when He says His purpose is to give a rich and abundant or satisfying life as the NLT reads. The abundant life of Christ has been perverted by some into a prosperity gospel that claims wealth and health, but as Paul points out Jesus offers more than that. Salvation from sin is only part of the benefit that is passed on to the believer.
In verses 18 and 19, Paul restates his argument but emphasizes the condemnation that applies to everyone. First, as it pertains to verse 18. As was discussed, all either from original sin or willingness to sin, stand condemned before God as Paul stated in Romans 3:10. There are none who seek God because of their fallen and sinful state and because of this all are correctly condemned by Him. However, there was one righteous act that could remove the condemnation and bring justification to the sinner. Because of Paul’s choice of words at the end of verse 18, one must ask does this righteous act automatically save all people?
Some have argued that verse 18 promotes universalism and that all people are saved because “the most natural reading of Romans 5:18-19” shows that just as all participated in Adam all participate in Jesus. However, there are some problems with this idea. First, if all people are saved then no one is under sin and one would expect more past tense language to be used by Paul both here and elsewhere regarding the need to receive Christ. Logically what would the point be in speaking of sin in a present context if all are in Christ and justified? Second, if all are saved then why is Paul writing a support letter to travel to Spain? If all are saved traveling to Spain (as well as other hardships) seem unnecessary. Possibly an answer is that Paul wants all to be subjected to the Lordship of Christ and while Paul does argue for this in Phil 2:9-11 and elsewhere, it is unlikely. Another possible reason is that people do not know they are in Christ and because of this they continue to sin in Adam. From here the question slightly shifts from universalism to universal access to salvation.
The problem with universalism is that if this is Paul’s intent, he contradicts himself from verse 17 and later in 10:13-21 where Paul shows that there is more than forgiveness, there is an active faith that includes accepting and repenting of one’s former way of life. Instead, verse 18 should be understood considering what Paul has already said which is that many will receive. At best verse 18 could be used to argue against limited atonement but not for universalism. Additionally, in context, this one righteous act applies to all meaning Jew or Gentile which is a more natural reading based on not only the previous verses but the bulk of Paul’s writings. Like the trespass that applied to all the righteous act can apply to all who receive it (v17). Paul elaborates on this point in Ephesians 2:14 stating that God has divided the wall of hostility and made one new person.
A better explanation would be that all were in and under Adam’s headship and now there is an alternative which is to be in Christ and under His headship because Paul argues for an either-or headship. In this line of thinking, people must make an allegiance to one or the other. A person can either chose to continue walking in sin and be condemned or they can choose to walk in Christ and live in the justification that has been provided for them. This is a constant dichotomous theme that runs through not only Paul’s writings but the New Testament as a whole. There are two choices, one can either walk in the flesh which is Adam or the Spirit which is Christ. There is universal availability for all to now make that choice. This is as far as one should safely take the topic of universalism.
In the final section Paul presents the joy of the righteous act of Jesus and the beauty of the Christian faith; where sin multiplied or abounded, grace multiplied or abounded more. As was previously stated the righteous act of Christ must be greater than the sin of Adam because Adam’s sin was but one. The many sins that came from that one sin multiplied through the generations. This is not only in the quality of sin (c.f. Cain killing Abel) but in quantity of sins committed. All since Adam have sinned, and sin is a universal issue. The righteous act of Jesus and the grace extended to the believer is greater than sin because it must be in order to cover the abundance of sin.
Moreover, Paul argues that not only is the gift greater than the trespass, but the result is greater than the consequence of sin. Whereas sin and death go hand in hand grace and eternal life are equally inseparable. Paul’s teaching here goes beyond a comparison of sin and death or grace and life in that more mysteries are included. The immortality of the soul, for example, is included because death is not the end but the transference from this life to the next. Grace gives life and that life is eternal. Paul shows this but moreover, he shows the connection the believer has with Christ. Paul speaks of the mystery throughout his writings using marriage illustrations and other times flat-out stating the seating a believer has in heaven with Christ (Col 3:3). This is because just as sin and death are connected to an unbeliever grace, eternal life, and union with Christ are connected to the believer. One can speak of these things individually, but they cannot be separated. The results of the righteous act of Christ is abounding grace and because of this, the implications are enormous.
When examined in a cross-cultural context some of the items above find a deeper understanding while others can be difficult to translate. This is because ideas, like language, do not always translate one to one. For example, the English language officially only has one you, however, most other languages use many forms of you. For the issues being addressed here not all cultures have the concept of original sin. How does one discuss this passage with that understanding? To start with the origin of sin should be addressed.
The question of the origin of sin from a biblical perspective is Adam’s failure in the garden. In many African societies, sin exists but it is based on violations of the principle that “I am because we are, and since we are, therefore I am” which is to say that sin is an action against the community and not God. For the original sin committed by Adam, Adam was because God was. Adam’s clan or tribe included God, Eve, and himself. His sin and rebellion in the garden was against the entire tribal community which included God. This made the violation greater because of the one who he sinned against. Because God is part of the tribe but also outside of the tribe (that is omnipresent) the sin has bigger implications than just an offense. Theoretically, this may suffice as an answer to the introducing of sin into the world and the idea of sinning against God. Whether people accept this to mean they carry that same sin is not as important as understanding that they do sin and that sin is a reality with bigger implications.
Another approach would be to build off what is already understood regarding how the actions of one effect an entire tribe. As it stands Adam is the head of the human tribe. No one can escape the truth that all sin the only question that could be asked is why. The answer is because of Adam the father of all introduced sin into the world.
Collectivist communities in Africa, for example, understand this concept quite well. As mentioned, it is understood in many African communities that “one is because others are” which is to say that the actions of one individual do not exist in a vacuum. The understanding is not limited to those members of tribal religions. Christians in these villages may not participate in ceremonial cleansings that are needed due to sin because of their faith in Christ but it is on the basis of their faith and not a rejection of the fact that one person’s actions have affected the entire village. What is clearly seen then is the “principle of solidarity of the human race” because all are related to Adam and all are then sinners.
It seems only natural to look at the concept or idea of justification in other cultures because justification by faith alone or Sola Fide is a bedrock of Protestantism. Therefore, not only does one need to have a proper understanding of the belief but an ability to communicate it in cultures. First, as it pertains to other cultures, it would be wrong to assume that non-Catholic Christians universally understand and or believe in the doctrine of sola fide. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church as an example does not teach that justification comes by faith alone. This is due to a few factors chief among them appears to be due to their required reading in order to serve in the church. Eshetu Abate points out that the Ethiopian church highlight the book of James so they hold “that faith and good works are needed for justification.” This could be lessened if they required a reading of Romans or Galatians as well. This belief has come to be because the Ethiopian church has largely developed apart from the rest of the Christian community. Those who are taught and come to believe in Sola Fide are generally asked to leave the church.
Abate also discusses the question of justification in African Tribal Religions or ATRs. As mentioned, these ATRs generally do not have a belief in original sin and moreover, their belief in sin is much different than that of Western peoples. Sin is looked at as an act against other people and not God Himself. How then does one teach on the important topic of justification? Some African scholars have suggested to simply teach what Scripture teaches. Just because a people have a certain belief that does not mean Scripture is invalidated. People often believe things that are contrary to Scripture. The job of the theologian, missionary, pastor, or evangelist is to present and teach the Bible and Christ. It needs to be made relevant and it does not all have to be presented at once, but it neither can it be syncretized.
Western Christianity would do well to better understand the concept of headship and collectivism. There seems to be, in Western Christianity, a constant search to restore the church to the roots of the faith. Verses like Acts 2:42 are a calling to Christians who feel a desire for a more unified time. This may be in part due to a romanticizing of the early church and in part due to a lack of understanding of collectivism versus individualism. An easier and perhaps more attainable goal would be to seek an proper understanding of headship. This is partly because the reason the collective community worked as well as it did in New Testament times is because people were submitting to each other and the Lordship (headship) of Jesus.
The results of this would be at least two-fold if one can understand that there are two option – Adam or Christ. First, people would have a proper understanding of who they were/are outside of Christ. They are in sin, separated from God, and subject to judgment. They are subject to the results of the fall. There is no excusing or tampering with the truth of the matter. This is not to suggest that they are unable to control their actions, but that they are predisposed to sin. Second, and most glorious, they would understand that as a believer in Christ and His righteous act they are now under a new federal head and can enjoy the benefits of Jesus’ headship. This appears to not only be Paul’s aim in this section but in nearly all of his writing. His desire for the believer to understand their new place as a child of God is present in nearly all his writing. However, this all begins with an understanding of the biblical concept of headship and a somewhat limited rejection of Western individualism. This is not to say individualism is inherently bad, but it does have limitations especially when attempting to understand a believer’s identity in Christ.
When looking at how to present the truth of Christ and Scripture to a culture, the starting point must be the reliability of Scripture. Different cultures should be viewed as a gift from God. American culture has at its core a rugged individualism that says each person is responsible for themselves and their own actions and no one is beholden to anyone else. This is of course not true but that is the cultural ideal. There is some merit to this, but this is often times foreign to the principals found in the Bible regarding unity and community. The biblical principles are not thrown out because of this but instead, they are aimed at, and many have tried to find ways to successfully integrate them into daily life in the American culture. There is still work to do but the closer the American West gets to understanding headship the better off the church and the members will be.
In the same way, those cultures that do not have an understanding of sin, whether original or not, cannot enjoy the full beauty of justification by faith alone because a weak understanding of sin leads to a weak understanding of justification against the backdrop of condemnation. No culture is right in all their understandings but by examining the truth of Scripture in both the original and historical contexts and in light of how other believers view them, new and fresh light can be given to it. In that way, we honor God’s gift of culture and more importantly, we honor Christ as Lord.
 All Scripture taken from the HSCB unless otherwise noted.
 Edwin D. Freed, The New Testament a Critical Introduction 3rd Edition, (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning, 2001), 283.
 William MacDonald, Believers Bible Commentary: A Complete Bible Commentary in one Volume, edited by Art Farstad, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson 1995) 1673.
 Carol A. Newsom, Sharon H. Ringe, and Jacqueline E. Lapsley editors, Woman’s Bible Commentary, (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1998) NEED PAGE NUMBER
 Bailey and Broek, 45.
 Wilhelm Pauck, Luther: Lectures on Romans, (Philadelphia; Westminster Press, 1961), 170.
 Manheim Kister, “Romans 5:12-21 Against the Backdrop of Torah-theology and Hebrew Usage, Harvard Theological Review 100, no. 4”, 394, ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost, accessed September 8, 2018.
 Ibid, 396.
 Everett F. Harrison and Donald A. Hagner, The Expositors Bible Commentary: Romans-Galatians, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008), 97.
 Colin G Kruse, Paul’s Letter to the Romans, The Pillar New Testament Commentary, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. 2012), 243.
 D.M. Lloyd-Jones, Romans, An Exposition of Chapter 5 Assurance, Grand rapids; Zondervan 1982, 223.
 Everett F. Harrison and Donald A. Hagner, 98.
 Merrill F. Unger, The New Ungers Bible Dictionary, Edited by R. K. Harrison, (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1988) 729
 W.E. Vine, Vines Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, Unabridged Ed, (Peabody: Hendrickson Publ) s.v. δικαίωμα 624.
 Reginald Cuthbert Fuller, A New Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture, (Camden, NJ: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1969), 1115.
 Richard H. Bell, “Rom 5.18-19 and Universal Salvation,” New Testament Studies 48 (3): 432. accessed September 24, 2018. http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=rfh&AN=ATLA0001322953&site=ehost-live.
 Kruse, 251.
 John S. Mbiti, “God, sin, and salvation in African Religion,” The Journal Of The Interdenominational Theological Center 16, no 1-2, 64, accessed September 6, 2018, ATLA Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost.
 This of course does not deal with question of relativism but even when pressed most moral relativist will acknowledge some idea of wrong doing against another which could be labeled sin.
 Tokunboh Adeyemo, African Bible Commentary A One Volume Commentary Written by 70 African Scholars, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan 2006), 1360.
 Brian Wintle, Havilah Dharamraj, Jesudason Basker Jeyaraj, Paul Swarup, Jacob Cherian, and Finny Philip editors, South Asia Bible Commentary A One Volume Commentary on the Whole Bible, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan 2011). 1524.
 Eshetu Abate, “The Battle for Justification by Faith in the African Context,” Concordia Journal 25 (4): accessed October 26, 2018. 423 http://elibrary.johnsonu.edu:2048/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=rfh&AN=ATLA0000996490&site=ehost-live.
 Ibid, 429-30.