Adam and Christ - Romans 5:12

We have come to Romans 5:12 and this begins an extraordinarily profound passage of scripture that if I had to put three words over this section it would be “Adam and Christ”. If you understand Adam and Christ, you basically understand human history. You basically understand salvation and condemnation and everything that you need to know. From God's perspective there's only two men who have ever lived, Adam and Christ. Every person is in either Adam or is in Christ. They were two representative men. Adam represented the entire human race. Whatever Adam did affected you, affected me, effected anyone whoever lived. Jesus Christ is the second Adam. He is the head of another race of people. Those who are believers and those who are clothed in his perfect righteousness. Everyone enters into this world in Adam. You do not have to do anything. You were born in Adam. As we shall see even when Adam sinned however many thousand years ago that was we sinned long before we even were conceived and long before we were even born. We were already charged with Adam's sin. Then Christ entered the world and where Adam disobeyed, Christ has obeyed. Christ's obedience on our behalf has been credited to us now for righteousness.

 

In one sense it is very simple and it all revolves around the doctrine of imputation. Imputation simply is the theological word that means to credit to the account of, to charge to the account of. There are three imputations that are taught in the bible. To understand these three imputations you have to put your arms around a lot of theology. The first imputation is the imputation of Adam's sin to the entire human race. Such that when Adam sinned we all sinned in Adam. You may say “hey that's not fair I wasn't there and I did not do it.” Well you think more highly of yourself than you ought to because you would have made the same choice. You are not better than Adam. In fact, you would have probably folded your tent before you even got to the forbidden fruit. Adam acted on our behalf. It's just like in a football game one guy jumps offsides and the whole team is penalized. So one man can penalize the whole team. That is what happened with Adam. He stood as our federal representative, just like we have people in Washington that vote for us.

 

What they vote affects us. We were not sitting up there, we did not cast the vote but nevertheless it affects us and that is just the reality. That is the way that it is. There are two other imputations and these are positive imputations and you do not want to ever say I do not want imputation because two are positive, only one is negative. We gain more in Christ than we lost in Adam. We come out ahead, far ahead. The second imputation is the sins of all the people who would ever believe, all of those sins were imputed to Christ on the cross. Him who knew no sin God made to be sin for us. 1 Corinthians 5:21, "And he bore our sins in his body upon the tree." 1 Peter 2 and 1 Peter 3:18, the just for the unjust. All of the sins of all the people who would ever believe upon Christ all of their sins at once were transferred to Christ. Our sins credited to Him and He literally bore them in His body upon the cross. The third imputation is the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ gained through his perfect obedience to the will of God is imputed to us when we believe upon Christ. Adam's sin imputed to the entire human race. The sins of all believers imputed to Christ. Christ's righteousness imputed to us. Those three imputations give the over view of really the transactions in salvation.

 

Romans 5 beginning in verse 12 and it really goes down to verse 19, lays this out. It is an extraordinary case to be laid out. Beginning in verse 12, "Therefore just as through one man," and we know who that one man is, it is Adam. He's mentioned in verse 14, "Just as through one man's sin entered into the world. And death through sin. So death spread to all men because all sinned." Now in your translation there probably is a long dash at the end of verse 12. Does your translation have a long dash? There is no punctuation in the original Greek manuscripts but punctuations are intended to help the reader. Punctuations are good. There is a long dash here to signify that Paul goes off, not on a tangent, but he breaks his train of thought and does not resume it until verse 18.

 

Beginning in verse 13 is really like a dangling thought out on the side. He says, "For until the law, sin was in the world. Sin was not imputed where there is no law. Nevertheless death reign from Adam until Moses even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam who is a type of him who is to come. The free gift is not like the transgression for if by the transgression of the one," that's Adam, "the many died," that's us, "much more did the grace of God and the gift of the grace of the one man Jesus Christ abound to the many," that's also us who believe. "The gift is not like that which came through the one Adam who sinned for on the one hand the judgement arose from the one transgression." That's back in Genesis 3 resulting in condemnation. “But on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions, that is our transgressions resulting in justification. For if by the transgression of the one death reign through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the one Jesus Christ." I realize this is very compact. It is somewhat of an awkward English sentence as it is translated but it is going to be worth our effort to get the meat off of this bone.

 

This is really profound. Verse 18, "So then as through one transgression," and he's really picking back up now what he said at the end of verse 12, "So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men even so through one act of righteousness they resulted justification of life to all men. For as through the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners even so through the obedience of the one, the many will be made righteous." I will stop there. Now it's a little awkward to read it out loud because they are long sentences and there's parallelism going on here. It is probably a little challenging for you to keep up concentration as I read through this. I understand that but I wanted to just lay out where we're going to be headed. There is no way we can get through this so let me put you at ease for this. We are going to start on verse 12 and I do remember when I was in seminary one professor saying you can determine how good a theologian a man is by how warn out verse 12 is in his bible. If you get verse 12 you get a major chunk of the bible. If you miss verse 12 you've lost your golf ball in the weeds and you just can't connect the dots. This explains human history. This explains salvation. This explains condemnation.

I. THE CONNECTION 

Verse 12 is a huge verse and I have told you before large doors swing on small hinges. Major truth can hinge on just a small verse like this. Let us look at this. He begins verse 12 therefore and I hate to say this but we're going to have to stop and talk about therefore. Whenever you see a therefore you've got to see what it's there for. Therefore is a connection. It connects what just proceeded with now with what follows. Therefore is like a bridge between two islands. Why does he say therefore? The explanation lies in this, in verses 6-11 that you just had previous it says in verse 6 that Christ died for the ungodly. He died for the helpless. In verse 8 it says he died for sinners. In verse 10 it says that he died for enemies and the result of this death is in verse 9 he has justified helpless, ungodly, sinful enemies and verse 10 he has reconciled those whom he's justified. He has reconciled them to a holy God.

 

Here is the question, “how can one man by one death reconcile all these many people and remove that many sins with just one death by one man?” The therefore leads into the explanation. How Jesus Christ hanging on the cross for six hours specifically the last three hours from 12:00 noon till 3:00 when he dismissed his spirit. At high noon is when it became black as midnight our sins transferred to Christ upon the cross, how could he in that short period of time in one act of obedience how could he clean the slate for us and then add his perfect righteousness to our spiritually bankrupt account? We need an explanation for this.

 

Beginning in verse 12 and all the way down to verse 19 as I just read Paul now hits the pause button and he dives into some deep water to show how the obedience of the one man, Jesus Christ reverses the curse of the disobedience of one other man. In one act of obedience Christ would be able to accomplish our salvation and the whole system. The whole economy of salvation is set up in representation that one man can represent the many and what the one man does affects the many. What Pail will now do is open the lens a little bit and not only allow us to see what Christ has done but allow us to see what Adam has done. What Adam did affect the many, what Christ did affected the many, and in reality as God looks at the human race he only sees two men. All he sees is Adam and Christ. You are either in Adam or you are in Christ and what Adam did affected everyone who is in Adam and what Christ did is effect everyone who is in Christ. That is basically the two categories and that's basically all that God sees.

II. THE COMPARISON 

He begins in verse 12, "Therefore," to pull verses 6-11 forward, "Just as through one man." When he says, "Just as," he's starting to set up a comparison. Now he will depart from the comparison in verse 13 and 14. He will come back to it really in verses 15-19 but those two words, "just as," he's beginning to set up a comparison. Adam and then just as Christ, "Just as through one man," that one man is Adam, we have already said, "sin entered into the world." Into the whole world. Adam's one sin opened the flood gate for the whole ocean of sin to come pouring through that key hole. Adam's one sin put a crack in the dam and sin entered into the world. With sin and death through sin. The parallels between death and sin are extraordinary and Paul will make the case. I want to show you this. In Romans 6:16, "Do you not know that when you present yourself to someone as slaves for obedience you are slaves of the one whom you obey either of sin resulting in death or of obedience resulting in righteousness. What we need to see is sin always results in death. Sin is cosmic treason against God. It always brings the death penalty.

 

You remember in Genesis 2:17, "The day that you eat this fruit you will surely die." Yet Adam seemed to have lived? No death entered that very moment. The death process began. He would have lived forever if he had not sinned but when he sinned his body immediately became subject to death. The aging process began. Also at that moment spiritual death entered the human race. He became severed in his relationship from God. That very moment. It would lead ultimately to eternal death if it were not for the grace of God that would intervene but the point we need to understand is what Romans 6:23 says, "The wages of sin is death." Just one sin against God results in physical death, spiritual death and eternal death. It is high treason against the God of heaven and earth and it always brings the curse of the law which is death. Sin may be a small thing to us it is a gigantic thing to God. It brings death.

 

At the end of Chapter 6, Romans 6:23, "For the wages of sin is death." Just one sin brings death. Now just to complete this look at Romans 8:2 because permeates through these chapters. Romans 8:2, "For the law of the spirit of life in Jesus Christ has set you free from the law of sin and death." Sin and death are twin sisters. They just are Siamese twins. They are inseparably bound together. They are the heads and tails of the same coin. They are inseparable. Wherever there is sin there is death. We see it again in Romans 8:6, "For the mindset on the flesh is death but the mindset on the spirit is life and peace." Verse 13, "If you are living according to the flesh you must die but if by the spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body you will live." The flesh they're referring to the sinful flesh. What we need to understand is that when Adam sinned, he brought sin into the entire human race but more than just sin he brought the death penalty with his sin into the human race.

1. Pelagianism 

Come back to Romans 5:12, "Therefore just as through one man's sin entered into the world and death through sin." It could not be contained it couldn't be kept with just Adam it spread like a malignant cancer to the whole body to the entire human race. It says, "So death spread to all men. Why? Because all sinned." Why does anyone die? Because of sin. It's sin in the human race, in the human body, in the human soul. That's why we die. Notice he says because all sinned. That is a huge little statement. Now that's been interpreted different ways down through the centuries. It's been interpreted wrongly by those who say there is no connection between Adam and the entire human race. He simply set an example or a model and people now sin imitating Adam. That is a totally bogus interpretation. It's called a pelagian view.

2. Semi-Pelagianism 

The next is the semi-pelagian view which is what most evangelicalism is that when Adam sinned his sin was charged to everyone's account but the sin nature that has been passed down from conception to conception to conception to conception has simply weakened human nature. Such that there is now still a moral capacity for man to do good towards God or to be able to exercise his will towards God. That that is what you call and I am going to give you the theological term, semi-Pelagianism. It is a halfway house and it is an unbiblical position.

3. Reformed 

The third position is what has historically been called the reformed position. Which is code for the biblical positions which means Adam's sin charged to every person who ever lived immediately and his sin nature has been subsequently passed down to every person born into the human race and that sin nature is totally corrupt and radically depraved that has effected the whole person. Not just their thinking and not just their feelings but even their choosing and their will. Now it is critically important that we understand in verse 12 the fall, what is call the fall of the human race. That it was not a small step down. It was a fall from a 50 story high building and when man hit the ground it totally incapacitate him spiritually speaking towards God. Such that he now is plagued by what we call moral inability. He has no moral ability to act towards God. He can pull out a red tie instead of a blue tie on a horizontal basis that's fine he can turn left and not go right if he's trying to get on the toll way. That doesn't affect him towards God.

 

What does affect him towards God is when he hears the Gospel. Number one he can not really hear it. Number two he can not really see it. Number three his will is crippled and devastated and he has an inoperative spiritual will. It's what Martin Luther called the bondage of the will. It is important that we understand the full extent to which Adam has plunged the human race into a devastating place of sin. Now when it says because all sinned. Several things I want to say here. We will just cover verse 12. Adam's sin was immediately charged to the entire human race all at once. Any person who would ever be conceived in a mother's womb immediately Adam's sin was charged to every person long before we were ever conceived in our mother's womb. It was all at once. Second it was comprehensive. In that it effected when we would be born it would effect every part of us, mind, affections and will. There is no part of our human nature unaffected by the original sin of Adam. It was just devastating.

 

This little statement here, "Because all sinned," is an extraordinary statement and it is all based upon the theological reality of representation. Representation and imputation that Adam represented every single one of us. It was as though we were in Adam. When he rebelled against God we rebelled against God. It has to be that way in order for the other side to be true for us to be in Christ and what Christ did for us, to become our righteousness as well. How we understand verse 12 is it is critically important. It explains why the entire human race is in a state of depravity, corruption and sin against God. It explains why everyone has to be born again. It explains why our dire need is for what Christ will provide for us in verses 15-19. What he says here in verse 12 is that important. There's a long dash and maybe we will just be able to look for a second ahead for until the law sin was in the world.

 

Of course it was. He just said in verse 12 through one man sin entered into the world. Even before the law was given sin was already in the world but sin is not imputed where there is no law. Well God has already written his law upon the consciousness and has written the law upon everyone's heart. In Romans 2 and in verse 12 it says all who have sinned without the law will also parish without the law and all who have sinned under the law will be judged under the law. In verse 14, the gentiles who do not have the law do instinctively the things of the law, these not having the law are law to themselves. Long before God gave the law to Moses God had already written the law upon on the conscience and people violated their own consciences to sin against God.

 

What Paul is wanting us to see is that even before Moses gave the law the law was already written upon people's hearts and people were sinning against the law. So verse 14, "Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses." If death reigned that means sin was reigned because sin brings death. Even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, well the sin of Adam God spoke audible words directly to Adam. It was not a sin against his conscience it was a sin against the actual speaking of God to him. Do not eat of this tree. That is the meaning of that. In verse 14 after he says Adam Paul writes, "Who is a type of him who was to come." This will lead us into what we will be looking at in future weeks but the word type means a pattern or a model.

 

What he is saying is that Adam is the perfect type of a representative who can affect a large group of people. He is a type of the one who is to come who is Jesus Christ who will be also a representative of a large group of people. Just as Adam's one act of disobedience effected the many so Christ's act of obedience effected the many. That is where he begins in verses 12-14 and I think we just stop here and we open it up for discussion among ourselves and I realize these verses are somewhat dense. I realize that. They are rich, they are heavy but they are profound and they are absolutely necessary for us to understand one what's wrong with everybody and two what's the only cure there is.

 

It is Jesus Christ. Let me stop right here and open it up. Remember I said, what is the so what? Let me just throw this out. So what? As a result of what we've looked at today what is the so what of these verses? How do these apply to us? How do these speak to where we are? How should this effect the way that we live today, tomorrow, this week, as we live our Christian life? What is the practical relevance of these verses. I am going to throw it open for us.

 

Audience Member:      I was reflecting on this and it's really one of those why give it thought but it shows some significance and I was burden with it of how we lead, as men, how we lead the responsible lives that we have in our family when you consider if Adam had corrected, had done the right thing and not allowed - totally just thrown the apple away but no he bit the apple himself. But if his wife had - if he had instructed her she wouldn't probably have turned back or looked back. The impact that we have on our families on our you know. That's kind of what I -

 

That is outstanding and isn’t it interesting that God holds Adam accountable for sin entering into the world. Not Eve but Adam and it really speaks to the headship of the man in the home as well as in the human race. That is a brilliant point. Thank you for that. Someone else, so what is the so what on this?

 

Audience Member:      We were dead before we were born. Christ righteousness imputed on it because the imputation of that righteousness on us is just it's inconceivable it's amazing.

 

Yes. It's like how could anyone say that someone is born in a neutral state. That you're just kind of like in no man's land and then at age 12 you become a sinner. You become accountable and now you become a sinner but before age 12 you're just kind of suspended in mid air. This says no we were born spiritually dead and accountable to God because of Adam's transgression long before we even knew how to make a choice about anything. We were already dead in the water, dead in sin. That is a great point.

 

Audience Member:      When you line that up with past and present where do you put the justification because we were dead in sin before we were born. Christ justified us in the past but we were not reconciled.

 

Yeah you put justification at the split second a person believes in Christ. It is justification by faith. When the faith is exercised is when God applies the righteousness of Christ, imputes the righteousness of Christ to that person's account. There used to be an old school though among reformed Baptists in England long years ago and it lead to hypercalvinsim which is that you were justified in eternity past. Now the fact is, please note verse 10, we were actually even the elect were enemies of God before we believed in Christ. Even those chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world. He says in verse 10, "We," referring to believers, "We were enemies." In Ephesians 2:1 he says, "We were dead in trespasses and sin." Even those chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world were enemies of God helpless and godless under the wrath of God until the moment we believed in Christ. That is a very important issue you brought up and we want to be very clear in our thinking on that. Even the elect were under the wrath of God until we were declared righteous at the moment of our faith in Christ.

 

Audience Member:      I think it highlights the grace of God because we were so dead. I mean dead, dead, no pulse, could do nothing. And the fact that we know Christ we love Christ. The fact that we have faith gives God 100 percent of the credit.

 

Amen.

 

Audience Member:     

 

100 percent of the credit. Even from a human perspective we are to believe. We preach believe, trust in Christ, put your faith in Christ.

Yeah.

 

Audience Member:      He gets all the credit because if we weren't dead -- completely dead -

 

It would be a joint effort.

 

Audience Member:      It's a joint effort and we get a little bit of the credit. I remember thinking that as a young Christian, "I got this and the next guy didn't get it and I guess I'm a little smarter than him. I'm a little bit more perceptive than he is and that's just not the case.

 

No it's not. All glory goes to God. That's a great point Kent. I mean dead is dead. I mean what can a dead man do.

 

Audience Member:      Nobody in heaven is going to be walking around saying, "Hey I did this and I did that."

 

Yeah that's why we cast our crowns back at his feet because it all goes back to him. He did it all. It was his initiative, his provision. He was the make it happen God at every level of our salvation.

 

Audience Member:      The other thing that just hits me like a ton of bricks is the enormity of sin even before and after we were saved. Even as believers as men walking in this world to play with sin is seriously dangerous.

 

Yeah you're playing with a cobra.

 

Audience Member:      Even as believers it is still what sin is to God is as you said gigantically evil and enormously diametrically opposed to him. So it's incredible to think about this.

 

Audience Member:      Echoing Kent's point too I mean just the vastness of sin and you just minimized it so much, one sin had the effect on all mankind and all the world. And so the proper view of man and the proper view of God just kind of exposes the fact that we probably or we do raise men too high and we lower God too low. Just that. Sin is such an offense to God because he is God. We don't understand his perfections.

 

Amen to that. That is pretty good for being unprepared.

 

Audience Member:      That was the marble in the head.

 

Audience Member:      We have a question for you. This is Erik from Maryland. He says, "Isn't this the main point as to why bad things happen even to good people because of sin entering the world, illness, natural disasters et cetera?"

 

Yeah absolutely. Even good people are not immune to - I mean this says that sin and death spread to the whole world. Yes, even natural disasters is a part of a fallen world, the curse of God upon even creation. The man would have to work by the sweat of his brow, it's a result of a fallen world so yeah so glad to hear from Maryland there that's great. Anyone else you got there?

 

Audience Member:      We had one other question. This guy said, "Does the sinful nature get passed on seminally? Please explain."

 

Well seminally is another position that we were actually in Adam. Such that when he sinned we actually in some way participated in that sin. I mean we were actually in the car that held up the bank. We were in the backseat of the car that held up the bank and we're a participant in it. That's the seminal view and Augustine held to kind of a seminal view and there have been some other really deep thinkers down through the centuries. I do not think the seminal view really is the biblical view, however some great men who agree with the Gospel and agree with us have held to that position but that's just kind of it in a nutshell. They use Melchizedek for that argument but I do not think it really holds up in the whole analogy of scripture. It looks like we've got one more minute. I mean we have not heard from Chris Cobb and Bilhad knows Chris Cobb by name. He is famous globally. Chris I mean just some gem to just dangle before our startled eyes.

 

Audience Member:      I did not have anything to say. I was thinking that it is profound that we hear people that a loving God wouldn’t let bad things happen. Right? He had the vaccine ready for the disease when it happened. That is what I was thinking this whole time that when Adam sinned he goes “Hey but we have hope right now coming. Don't get lost in the weeds. You're a sinner accept it but the good news is I have a vaccine.”

 

In fact he had the cure long before the disease entered into the world. In the plan of salvation though Christ had not yet accomplished it for us, he already had the remedy worked out.

 

Audience Member:      Yeah so people get hung up in the it's just not fair. Well wait, wait, wait, but he had the cure before the disease. All you have to do is believe. Understand it, listen and you'll go oh my gosh it's right. It's not fair. It's unbelievably on our side fair. It's not the opposite.

 

Yeah it is unbelievably merciful. Remember two of them or positive in our direction only one is negative.

 

Audience Member:      It's not fair.

 

It's not fair. It is fair to go to hell it is not fair to go to heaven.

 

Audience Member:      Exactly right. That's what I was contemplating just going you get caught in the - we're sinners just by association with Adam yeah but we're saved by association with Jesus Christ.

 

Amen.

 

Audience Member:      It's an unbelievable rainbow if you just take the time to listen and understand what God sent his son to do for us.

 

Audience Member:      What truly is unfair is that Christ had to die.

 

Yes. Pure mercy. Well I guess maybe one last point of application and then I will close this. I think this should help us be patient with unconverted people as we're talking to them about Christ that they really do not see it and they do not really hear it and they do not get it because they are in spiritual death. We need to continue to reach out to them and love them and to try to be used by God sometimes over an extended period of time, over a long period of time until the day God resurrects their spiritually dead soul to live and to believe in Christ. This says to me I just need to be long-suffering with unconverted people. Even as we are having to deal with people in the world who are not treating us right. They are really just acting out the effects of Adam's sin and I just need to have the macro perspective. I need to have the bigger picture. If people are tooling us around or - my little world compared to your world it is like bad treatment at an airport or something. For you it's a business deal or something like that. I just need to realize I am in this fallen world and I am dealing with people who are just crippled plagued with the effects of Adam's sin. I am just going to have to be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might, of his grace. Let me just close in a word of prayer and let me just say if I've been a little incoherent at a few points I’m still at 36,000 feet so I am asking for another coffee. I really appreciate everything that all of you all said and in many ways kind of helped land the plane well.

 

Let us just close in prayer. Father thank you for the wisdom from this text the truth from this text and we want to have the right perspective on the human race and upon life and you have really given it to us today. Help us now make the application to live this out in our lives. Help us to be patient with unsaved people who have just fallen on their head from Adam's sin and are just dysfunctional completely. Help us to belong suffering as we work with them and we pray for their salvation that you would bring them all the way to faith in Christ. Thank you for these men who mean so much to me and for those who watch us around the world. In Christ's name. Amen.

Dr. Steven J. Lawson

Dr. Steven J. Lawson is President and founder of OnePassion Ministries, a ministry designed to equip biblical expositors to bring about a new reformation in the church. Dr. Lawson hosts The Institute for Expository Preaching in cities around the world. Dr. Lawson is also a Teaching Fellow for Ligonier Ministries, where he serves on its board. Moreover, he is Professor of Preaching and oversees the Doctor of Ministry program at The Master’s Seminary, where he also serves on its board. Dr. Lawson is also Professor in Residence for Truth Remains, a work designed to promote and proclaim God’s written Word. Further, Dr. Lawson serves as the Executive Editor for Expositor Magazine published by OnePassion Ministries.