Romans Part 7: Adam and Jesus

March 10, 2007

In the last half of chapter 5 of the book of Romans, Paul explained how Jesus is the solution to the problem of death.

In the preceding portions of the book, Paul wrote of the problem of unrighteousness, which places all mankind under God’s wrath. And he explained how God has given us a solution to that problem through a righteousness that comes by faith in Jesus, purchased for us at the cost of the blood of God’s son. This righteousness is credited to us as a gift through faith, rather than as a reward for righteous deeds. As a result of this righteousness, we have peace with God and many associated blessings.

One of those blessings is an answer to the problem of death, which dates back to the days of Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve sinned by eating fruit from the tree from which God had forbidden them to eat. As a result of that sin, God told Adam:

(Gen 3:19) By the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
and to dust you will return.”

The penalty for the disobedience of Adam and Eve is that they and all their descendents would return to dust. They would experience physical death. This penalty continues to apply to us today.

J. W. McGarvey commented on this point in his commentary on Romans, saying:

Adam’s sin brought natural death upon the whole human family, but nothing more. The punishment which we incur through Adam terminates at death. If men are punished after death, it is not because of Adam’s, but because of their own individual sins

The salvation that Jesus brings resolves all the outstanding charges by God against man. So how does it affect the penalty of death that comes to all the descendents of Adam? Beginning in Romans chapter 5, Paul explained how in Jesus we are rescued from the permanent consequences of this penalty. He began his explanation in verse 12, then took a detour to explain some concepts, and came back to the explanation in verse 18. First we will look at Paul’s overall point from the beginning and end of this section, and then we will return to look at the explanation inserted in the middle.

Rom 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–

Rom 5:18 Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men.
Rom 5:19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.

In a parallel passage, Paul wrote to the Corinthians:

1Co 15:20-22 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.

Through Jesus, in additon to the gift of righteousness through faith, we also receive the resurrection from the dead. The penalty of death, which comes to us through the universal fall of man, is overcome by resurrection through Jesus Christ.

Paul marveled a the symmetry of God’s salvation. And he offered that symmetry as part of his proof that Jesus was the solution to the problem of sin and death.

Now let’s take a look at the parenthetical explanation in the middle of this section.

Rom 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.
Rom 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.
Rom 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!
Rom 5:16 Again, the gift of God is not like the result of the one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification.
Rom 5:17 For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.

Here Paul was trying to help the Jews, who were looking at everything through the eyes of the Law of Moses. To them, it seemed that all the promises and all the penalties from God were under the umbrella of the Law. To clear up that misunderstanding, Paul pointed out:

  • that death entered the world before the Law, and was independent of Law
  • that death was a penalty to all mankind because of the fall of Adam
  • that righteousness through faith in Jesus is offered to all mankind because of the gift of Jesus
  • by implication, the gift of Jesus was also independent of the Law

So, if all these things were independent of Law, where does the Law fit into the picture?

Rom 5:20 The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more,
Rom 5:21 so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Law was given “so that the trespass might increase.” In other words, it shines a spotlight on the sin so that it becomes obvious, and to increase our accountability. Law makes it clear what God expects, so that when we disobey we are all the more responsible as a result. Law leaves us with no excuse. We are forced to admit that we are sinners.

But God did not leave us there. Along with the greater sinfulness that results from our disobedience because of the Law, he also provides access to greater grace. And therefore the final result is not a permanent death, but a resurrection to eternal life in Jesus!

Next time: Paul begins to address various Jewish objections to this comprehensive salvation by faith.


  1. […] The symmetry between Adam and Jesus is also discussed in Romans. […]

  2. […] John 17: 21a May they all be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You. (HCSB) « Romans Part 7: Adam and Jesus Romans Part 9: Struggle and Victory » Romans Part 8: Death to Sin March 14, 2007 […]

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