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Summary: Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.

(18) Headship of Adam

Romans 5:12-14

12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned—

13 (For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law.

14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.

12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world. Genesis 3 makes it abundantly clear that this one man, Adam, brought sin to the human race by disobedience. It was not the sins of Adam’s lifetime, but the one original sin which allowed death, sin’s close ally, to enter the world with it. On no less than five occasions in verses 15–19 the principle of one sin by one man is stressed. One act of disobedience to God was sufficient to allow sin to enter and filter through the entire human race, because all sinned

And thus death spread to all men, because all sinned. Death comes to all of us because all have sinned—“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).

You and I are sinners in four different ways:

1. We are sinners because we commit acts of sin.

2. We are sinners by nature (sin doesn’t make us sinners, but we sin because we have that nature.

3. We are in the state of sin. God has declared the entire human family under sin.

4. We are sinners by imputation. That is, Adam acted for the human race because he was the head of it.

We are condemned in Adam, but we can be redeemed in Christ. Today we remain greatly affected by Adam’s sin, since we have inherited a sinful nature from him. It is true that all of us have committed individual acts of sin as well, but that is not the thought here. Paul’s point is that Adam’s sin was a representative act, and all his posterity are considered as having sinned in him, because we inherit his sinful nature when we are born. Someone might object and say that it was Eve and not Adam who committed the first sin on earth. That is true, but since Adam was the first to be created, headship was given to him. So he is seen as acting for all his descendants.

Death spread to all men. When the Apostle Paul says here that death spread to all men, he is referring to physical death, even though Adam’s sin brought spiritual death as well. Verses 13 and 14 will bear this out.

When we come to this passage of Scripture, certain questions inevitably arise. Is it fair that Adam’s posterity should be designated sinners just because he sinned? Does God condemn men for being born sinners, or only for those sins which they have actually committed? If men are born with a sinful nature, and if they therefore sin because they are born sinners, how can God hold them responsible for what they do?

Bible scholars have wrestled with these and a host of similar problems and have come up with a surprising variety of conclusions. However, there are certain facts that we can be sure of.

First, the Bible does teach that all men are sinners, both by nature and by practice. Everyone born to human parents inherits Adam’s sin, and then there are also the sins he commits by his own deliberate choice.

Second, we know that the wages of sin is death—both physical death and eternal separation from God.

But no one has to pay the penalty of sin unless he wants to. This is the important point. At enormous cost, God sent His Son to die as a Substitute for sinners. Salvation from sin and its wages is offered as a free gift through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Man is condemned on three grounds: He has a sinful nature, Adam’s sin is imputed to him, and he is a sinner by practice. But his crowning guilt is his rejection of the provision which God has made for his salvation—“He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18).

But someone will ask, “What about those who have never heard the gospel?” This question is answered in part, at least, in chapter 1. Beyond that we can rest in the assurance that the Judge of all the earth will do right—“Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Gen. 18:25). He will never act unjustly or unfairly. All His decisions are based on impartiality and righteousness. Although certain situations pose problems to our dim sight, they are not problems to Him. When the last case has been heard and the doors of the courtroom swing shut, no one will have a legitimate basis for appealing the verdict.

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