Summary: In Romans 5:12-21 the apostle Paul contrasts the work of Adam with the work of Christ. This sermon examines the reality, result, extent, and universality of the work of Adam.
Pastor and commentator Warren Wiersbe says that “since Romans is a book of logic, it is a book of ‘therefores.’ We have the ‘therefore’ of condemnation in Romans 3:20, justification in Romans 5:1, no condemnation in Romans 8:1, and dedication in Romans 12:1.”
In writing to the Romans, the apostle Paul has demonstrated that the entire world is under the righteous condemnation of God because of sin (1:18-3:20). But, in his grace God has provided his own righteousness to justify sinners. Then Paul has explained the source of our justification (3:21-31), provided an example of our justification (4:1-25), and discussed the blessings of our justification (5:1-11), which we examined in the past few weeks.
Today, Paul introduces another “therefore” in Romans 5:12. As I have said before, whenever we see the word “therefore” in Scripture, we must examine to see what it is there for. Paul is now about to explain the basis of our justification (5:12-21), which is a summary of all that he has said up to this point in his letter.
In Romans 5:12-21 the apostle Paul presents Adam and Christ as two “representative figures” whose acts determine the destiny of all who belong to them. We shall take a few weeks to unpack these verses. Today I plan to examine verses 12-14 in which we shall explore “The Work of Adam.” However, let me read Romans 5:12-21 so that we can see the work of Adam in the context of Paul’s entire argument. So, let us read Romans 5:12-21, bearing in mind that our text for today is Romans 5:12-14:
"12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— 13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.
"15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. 16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.
"18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. 20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Romans 5:12-21)
John MacArthur points out in his commentary on Romans that “many people consider Romans 5:12-21 to be the most difficult passage in the epistle.”
At first reading, it does seem difficult and complex. And in one sense it is. The truths that are contained in this section of God’s Word are deep and unfathomable.
But, when we approach the text and accept what is revealed in humble faith as the Word of the living God, then the truths become wonderfully simple and clear. And as John MacArthur says, “just as it is possible to accept and live in accordance with the law of gravity without fully understanding it, so it is possible for believers to accept and live according to God’s truth without fully understanding it.”
In Romans 5:12-21 the apostle Paul contrasts the work of Adam (the sinful, representative head of all humanity) with the work of Christ (the sinless, representative head of all redeemed humanity).
Today, we shall examine the work of Adam. We shall see the reality (5:12a), result (5:12b), extent (5:12c), and universality (5:13-14) of Adam’s work.
I. The Reality of Adam’s Work (5:12a)
First, let us examine the reality of Adam’s work.
Paul says in verse 12a, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man. . . .”
In the first part of Romans 5 the apostle Paul has discussed the blessings of our justification. He has confidently asserted that Christians have astonishing blessings as a result of being justified by faith alone through grace alone in Christ alone. Christians have peace with God, standing in grace, rejoicing in hope, rejoicing in suffering, God’s love demonstrated, and full salvation in Christ.