Romans 5:12-15


The Epistle for Lent I in this series is Romans 5: 12 (13-16) 17 -19. At that point these notes covered also verses 13-16. Therefore we shall repeat the notes on verses 12-15 at this point.

Romans 5:12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned--

"One man," because Christ is central to all. Eve is not mentioned because Adam received the commandment and was the head not only of the human race but also of Eve. Furthermore, Satan is not mentioned nor need he be. The contrast and comparison are not between God and Satan but between Christ and Adam.

Note that in this verse no mention is yet made of Christ. It is the first half of the comparison-contrast which is continued in verse 18-19. Verse 12 dwells on the one act of Adam, Adam's act of disobedience.

Through one person sin entered. Through the sin the death entered.  "Upon all people."  Death came to all men and me not because of what I did but because of Adam's sin. In Adam all sinned. In Adam all died. This is what we call inherited guilt, original sin. The sinfulness and death of all men are inevitable.

Note how often  "through one"  or its equivalent appears in this text: once in 12, twice in 15, once in 16, three in 17, twice in 18, and twice in 19, for a total of eleven.

Lenski: Verse 12 is Paul's complete preliminary statement on the universality of sin and death, a universality not merely empirical, but actually original, not one that spread like an infection making more and more sound people sick, until no more sound ones are not left, but one that poisoned the original source and so doomed all in advance.
Stoeckhardt: That Paul also has eternal death in mind when he speaks of death is seen from the contrast between death and eternal life at the close of the chapter. . . . Because of his sin Adam forfeited his life, also the blessed life in communion with God and the blessed life of glorification, which he would have gradually entered had he stood the test.

Romans 5:13 for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law. Romans 5:14 Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come.

These verses tell us that death held its unbroken power over men because men continued in sin, though their sin was different from that of Adam. The purpose of the giving of the Law is stated in verse 20. Between the time of Adam and that of Moses there was no Law to show the abundance of sin. But just because there was no Law does not mean that there was no sin. There was. That is proved in verse 14 by the fact that death was ruler among men. Even over those who did not sin exactly like Adam did, death ruled. The point is that they died, not because of their own sin, but, because of the sin of Adam. That's the point in the last part of verse 14: " Who is a type of the One Who was to come." 

Arndt: Adam is a type of him that was to come, that is, a figure of Christ. In what respect? The act of the one determined the fate of the many. Through the one, calamity comes over all. Through the other, blessing comes upon all.
Stoeckhardt: As by one man's sin death has come upon all men, so by the righteousness of one Man life has come to all men.

Though Paul has not mentioned Christ at this point, the precise point of comparison between type and anti-type is  "one act of disobedience brought sin and death to all just as one act of obedience brought righteousness and life to all." 

Before we leave this section we mention that in the account of Adam's descendants in Genesis 5 for each descendant Moses adds these words:  "and he died." 

Stoeckhardt: The sinner of the first world-era died because of the one transgression of Adam.

Romans 5:15 But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God's grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!

Verses 12-14 deal almost exclusively with Adam and his descendants. The comparison with Christ and all mankind is introduced right at the end where Christ, though not named, is implicitly called Adam's anti-type. This comparison is fully explained in verses 18-19. But verses 15-17, which intervene, denote not so much a comparison as a contrast.

Franzmann: The other parenthesis (15-17) safeguards the unique glory of Christ against the misunderstanding that Christ and Adam are equal forces in the life of mankind. Three times Paul assert the positive vital, creative plus on the side of Christ.

Paul is saying:  "The gift of grace far exceeded the sin."  Now follows a fact or particular condition. We just say "yes" to the protasis, the  "if" clause.

Stoeckhardt: He means all men. He creates the impression of a great mass and so makes the contrast to 'the one' appear very strong.

That this expression means  "all people"  becomes quite clear when one compares verses 18 and 19.  "Grace" is that quality in God which caused Him to send the Savior. The expression  "the gift in grace which is of the one person, Jesus Christ"  denotes that which Christ earned for us, the meritorious cause.

What is the difference between "trespass"  of the one and the  "gift" of the one? The latter abounded.

Arndt says: The grace of God and gift of Christ abounded much more. It is much grater than sin. It far outweighs and surpasses it.
Lenski: Christ did far more than to restore the state before the fall. He at once brought the full consummation, for the attainment of which Adam had been created. Not again was there to be a testing, such a one as Adam had failed in, but Christ won for him and for all of us the full reign of life everlasting, the  status gloriae,  as the dogmaticians call it.
Stoeckhardt: In the grace of that one Man, Jesus Christ, God's grace manifests itself. And the grace of God is an altogether different power, is much greater, stronger and effectively more powerful than the transgression of the one man. For that reason it is said of the grace of God and Jesus Christ, not only that it came unto the many, but that it 'abounded' unto many, was richly poured out upon them.
Bengel: The grace of God is the grace of Christ, conferred by the Father upon Christ, that it may flow from Him to us.

Adam and Christ were alike in their humanity, but yet so unlike, for Christ was sinless. But the sinless one took sin upon Himself. That is implicit in our text. It is said of the many that they died through Adam's trespass. It is not said that the many "lived" through what Christ did for them. Christ's vicarious atonement did not remove temporal death. It did something far greater. That's why Paul uses  "abounded." 

Note that in 15b we have two nouns for one verb, which is in the singular number. That is remarkable. The two nouns are so closely united that they have a singular verb in common. TEV translates:  "But God's grace is much greater, and so is his free gift to so many men through the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ."  God's grace and His gracious gift of redemption in His Son far exceed sin and death. It is somewhat like the idea in Rom. 8:18  "I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us." 

The glories of heaven are so great that they aren't worth comparing with temporal sufferings. The gracious gift of salvation attained by Jesus Christ far exceeds the terror and power of sin and death. What a glorious truth!


Adapted from Exegetical Notes, Series A Epistle Texts, Sundays After Pentecost, by Harold H. Buls, Concordia Theological Seminary Press: Ft Wayne IN, 1984, pp. 21-22. Used with permission.

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