Pastor David B. Curtis



Romans 5:12-18

Delivered 02/10/2008

I want to talk to you today about security. Not financial security, but eternal security. Can you imagine the emotional state of a child who does not know from day to day whether or not he is a member of the family? Today, since he was a good boy, he is considered a member. But tomorrow, if he misbehaves, he may no longer be a member. Today he is loved by his father. Tomorrow he may not be. This child would be a neurotic mess! You are a part of your family regardless of your behavior. So it is in the family of God, too. If you belong to Christ, you are part of the family and can enjoy the emotional security our Heavenly Father wants us to experience.

When they built the first section of the Golden Gate bridge, there was no safety net to protect the workers. Twenty-three workers fell to their deaths in the perilous waters far below the bridge. The city of San Francisco decided to spend an enormous sum of money to put a safety net under the next section, but once the safety net was in place, only a handful of workers ever needed it. The work went faster, and the workers could concentrate on their jobs without worrying about the danger of death.

To be a productive Christian, you need to know that your future is secure. That's why understanding our eternal security is so important. It allows our fears to be dealt with, gives us confidence for the task at hand, and offers the emotional stability that we need. If you understand what the Bible has to say about God's security, you would see that the God who saved you, keeps you.

The majority of church "goers" do not understand that their salvation is not based upon what they do, but upon what Christ did. They think that their relationship with God is based upon their performance. They think that as long as they live "right" that God will not condemn them. This is a "works" system. To attempt to live the Christian life by works is to live under constant guilt and condemnation. But to understand that salvation is by grace through faith, and that we are absolutely secure because of Christ's work, will bring great peace to your soul.

Romans 5:12-21 is one of the most theologically important chapters in all of the Bible. Dr. Barnhouse of Tenth Presbyterian in Philadelphia preached for seven months, every Sunday on these ten verses. And you think I'm long winded!

In this passage is the clearest statement in the Bible on what is called "Original Sin". Also, here is the complete answer to those who doubt the historicity of Adam and Eve. There are some who claim that the first chapters of Genesis are merely legend or myth; that Adam and Eve were not real people. But this chapter in Romans shows that belief to be false.

In verses 12-21, Paul develops the parallel between Adam and Christ, Adam is the head of the whole human race, Christ is the head of the new covenant people. That there is an analogy is shown by the statement at the end of verse 14:

Nevertheless death reigned 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 was to come. (Romans 5:14 NASB)

This section in Romans 5 is a comparison of two men, Adam and Christ. The comparison is very simple. There are two men who each performed a single act that brought forth a single result, and the result is experienced by every member in their respective races. In Adam, all are condemned, but in Christ, all are made righteous. All men are born in Adam, and it is only by grace through faith that they are placed in Christ.

Paul expects his readers to know what the function of Adam was and to learn by that what the function of Christ was:

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned-- (Romans 5:12 NASB)

"Therefore" connects this section with what precedes it in verses 1-11. Paul's purpose in verses 1-11 is to show us the absolute certainty and finality of our salvation, and the ultimate proof of that is that we are "in Christ"; in His life, and nothing can ever sever that connection.

For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. (Romans 5:10 NASB)

As believers, we are "in Christ"; we share His life. But that at once suggests our previous position in Adam and what it caused, so Paul now begins to deal with that. Paul is going to show that we have the same relationship now to the Lord Jesus Christ as we had before our salvation to Adam.

Paul wants us to understand the idea of imputation­credit being put to one's account­because the story of the entire human race can only be understood in terms of our relationship to Adam and the imputation of his sin to us.

Verse 12 starts out "Therefore, just as...." the "just as" suggests a comparison, but we notice that verse 12 does not complete the comparison, there is no "even so." He only gives us half of the comparison­Adam. Verses 13-17 are a parentheses for clarification. Verses 18 and 19 complete the comparison started in verse 12. Let's read it that way, skipping verses 13-18a:

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned 18b even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. (Romans 5:12, 18b NASB)

One man did one thing resulting in sin and death; the other man did something else, resulting in justification and life.

"Just as" the one act of Adam affected every member of the human race, "even so" the one act of Jesus Christ affects every member of the new covenant community.

The word "one" is used 12 times in verses 12-19. The emphasis in this section is on how one man's act affects all he represents.

Two representatives: Adam Christ
Two acts: sin obedience
Two results: death life
Two races: human elect­believers

In Adam we have sin and death, and in Christ we have obedience and life.

Do you want to know why the world is like it is? You're going to find out right now. This is the key to understanding human history. It is essential to our theology that we understand these verses. You mess up here, and your whole theology will be off.


1. "Sin entered into the world." The Greek word for "sin" is hamartia, it means: "to miss the mark." The mark is what God commands of us to do or not do:

Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. (1 John 3:4 NASB)

Sin is disobeying God. It is violating his Holy law. God is the Creator and law giver, and any violation of his moral will is sin. Adam introduced sin into the human realm:

Then the LORD God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, "From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; 17 but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die." (Genesis 2:15-17 NASB)

Adam was placed in a perfect environment in the garden of Eden. God gave Adam one prohibition. All those trees, and Adam could eat of them all, except one:

Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, "Indeed, has God said, 'You shall not eat from any tree of the garden'?" 2 And the woman said to the serpent, "From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; 3 but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat from it or touch it, lest you die.'" (Genesis 3:1-3 NASB)

We don't know if Adam added the "or touch it" part, or if that was Eve's addition.

And the serpent said to the woman, "You surely shall not die! 5 "For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." 6 When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. (Genesis 3:4-6 NASB)

Adam ate of the forbidden fruit­he sinned. Sin is violating the commands of God. When Adam sinned­"sin entered the world." How did sin enter the world? The Pelagian theory says that sin entered by others following Adam's bad example. But our text says "sin" not "sins." Adam did not bring sin into the world by setting a bad example. Adam's sin wrought a constitutional change of unholiness within the heart. That act resulted in an innate corrupting principle, and he transmitted this to his decedents. Men became sinners. as Paul said in:

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. (Romans 5:19 NASB)

This corruption of man's nature is what is called in theology "Original Sin." This sin is called "original sin," (1) because it is derived from the original root of the human race; (2) because it is present in the life of every individual from the time of his birth, and therefore cannot be regarded as the result of imitation.

It's not that you sin and that's what makes you a sinner. You're a sinner, you were born that way, and that is why you sin. Every human being born is born with original sin.:

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me. (Psalms 51:5 NASB)

That confession of David was very personal, indeed. He spoke of himself. But he spoke of himself as a member of the human race. There was nothing in David that made him any worse than you or me. His confession must be ours­"Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me."

Our evolutionary, humanistic society denies this vehemently. Some, it is true, are willing to acknowledge that some people do sin, or even that everyone sins at sometime, particularly if you want to refer to ethical misjudgments as "sins." But, babies sinful? By nature? Nothing strikes at the heart of humanism quite so devastating a blow as that notion! But how else can we explain why sin is so universal?

This universal tendency to evil has been stated very clearly by a secular agency-- the Minnesota Crime Commission. In studying humanity, the commission came to this frightening and factual conclusion:

Every baby starts life as a little savage. He is completely selfish and self-centered. He wants what he wants when he wants it--his bottle, his mother's attention, his playmate's toy, his uncle's watch. Deny him these wants, and he seethes with rage and aggressiveness, which would be murderous, were he not so helpless. He is dirty. He has no morals, no knowledge, no skills. This means that all children, not just certain children, are born delinquent (emphasis mine; DBC). If permitted to continue in the self-centered world of his infancy, given free reign to his impulsive actions to satisfy his wants, every child would grow up a criminal, a thief, a killer, a rapist.

Through Adam's personal sin, original sin came to all mankind, and all humanity was corrupted. We are all born sinners.

2. Death came as a result of sin­"and death through sin." As a result of Adam's sin, he died. The first question we must ask and answer here is: "What is the meaning of death?" Most commentators say he is talking about physical death. They say that man dies physically because of sin. Is that true? Let's go back to the original sin and see what God said:

but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die." (Genesis 2:17 NASB)

Did Adam die that day? Not physically! Adam lived at least 800 years beyond the day he ate the fruit. But God said he would die the day he ate, and we know that God cannot lie. Adam did not die physically that day, but he did die spiritually. He died spiritually the moment he disobeyed. Spiritual death is separation from God, who is life. So, since the text in Genesis is dealing with "spiritual" death, so is the text in Romans 5.

Also, the comparison in this passage is between Adam and Christ. What we lost in Adam is restored in Jesus Christ. If the death referred to is physical, then having gained in Christ what we lost in Adam, Christians should never die physically.

THINK ABOUT THIS: Is physical death a result of the fall, or just part of being human? Scientists tell us that every human being begins to die physically from the moment of birth. Even while we are growing and developing, cells begin to die and the evidence begins to show: teeth decay, hair begins to fall out, eyes go bad, and joints ache.

Did Jesus Christ age? Absolutely! Was he sinless? Yes! So, his ageing was part of being human. If he had not died for us on the cross, would he have died of old age? I believe he would have. I believe, at this present time in my studies, that physical death is part of being human and not a result of Adam's sin.

Because of his sin, man was separated from God. He was dead in trespasses and sins. The focus of God's plan of redemption is to restore through Jesus Christ what man had lost in Adam:

So then as through one transgression [Adam's] there resulted condemnation [spiritual death] to all men, even so through one act of righteousness [Jesus] there resulted justification of life [spiritual life] to all men. 19 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. (Romans 5:18-19 NASB)

Because of Adam's sin, we are all born dead, separated from God. But through Jesus Christ we receive eternal life. We see this same comparison in:

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23 NASB)

The life that is a gift is spiritual life, so the death must also be spiritual.

So, in answer to the question: "What is death?" The death referred to here is spiritual death, which is separation from God. If a man dies physically while in a state of spiritual death, he will spend eternity in the lake of fire, which the Bible calls the "second death."

Spiritual death came as a result of Adam's sin. Prior to Adam's sin, he lived in fellowship with God.

3. Death spread to all men­"and so death spread to all men." Spiritual death spread to all men. Every human being born is born separated from God, dead in sin. The question that arises here is, "Why?" Why do all die? The answer is given in the end of verse 12:

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned-- (Romans 5:12 NASB)

All men are born spiritually dead­"because all sinned." The Greek here employs the aorist tense, which indicates that at some point in the past all men sinned, and that point must be when Adam sinned. When he sinned, I sinned. If Adam is guilty, I am guilty.

In interpreting this, we must remember that the chief point of the entire section is to hold before us the comparison between Adam and Christ. The object of that comparison is to emphasize the fact that our relationship to the one is parallel with our relationship to the other. What is true of us in Adam is true of us in Christ.

So, the question that we must answer is, "How have we all sinned?" The answer comes in understanding federal headship.


God constituted Adam as the federal head or representative of the entire race. Adam acted on our behalf as our representative. Adam's sin has been put to our account--this is imputation:

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 until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. (Romans 5:13-14 NASB)

In these verses, Paul proves his point. General principle: Sin is not imputed where there is no law. No written law, no sin, no death. Spiritual death is a result of sin:

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23 NASB)

The fact is that death (spiritual death) reigned all through the no-law period. During this period men were spiritually dead even though they hadn't sinned. The reason they were spiritually dead is because Adam's sin was put to their account.

We're all born spiritually dead, and death is penal. Why? Did we personally sin before we were born? No! We sinned in Adam. He represented us, and what he did, we did. His act is put to our account.

Now, someone might say, "That seems so unfair." Who determines fair? What God does is the ultimate standard of right:

On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, "Why did you make me like this," will it? 21 Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use, and another for common use? (Romans 9:20-21 NASB)

We see the idea of federal headship taught all through the Bible. Achan sins, and his whole family is put to death:

Then Joshua and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, the silver, the mantle, the bar of gold, his sons, his daughters, his oxen, his donkeys, his sheep, his tent and all that belonged to him; and they brought them up to the valley of Achor. 25 And Joshua said, "Why have you troubled us? The LORD will trouble you this day." And all Israel stoned them with stones; and they burned them with fire after they had stoned them with stones. (Joshua 7:24-25 NASB)

Achan, as head of the family, caused his whole family to be put to death because of his sin.

God dealt with the nation of Israel according to the quality of their king. When their king sinned, the whole nation suffered for it. We should understand this because our country runs on the principle of representative government. If the president declares war, many will die because of his act. Now you might say, "Yes, but we pick our president, and I never chose Adam to represent me." That is true, but if someone is going to represent you before God, wouldn't you rather have God pick them? Wouldn't He be better qualified to pick your representative?

I can give you a rather week illustration of representation from our own legal system. We know that if I hire a man to kill someone, and that hired killer carries out the contract, I can justly be tried for first-degree murder in spite of the fact that I did not actually kill anybody. I am judged to be guilty for a crime someone else committed because the other person acted in my place. Now, I know that we didn't hire Adam to sin for us. The illustration simply illustrates that there are some cases in which it is just to punish one person for the crime of another.

The principle of federal headship offers the only hope to a guilty sinner before God. We stand guilty. How can we ever be forgiven? Works? NO! We can only be forgiven through the act of One person­Jesus Christ, our representative.

The end of verse 14 says, "Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come." Adam was a type of "Him who was to come"­ the Lord Jesus Christ. As Adam committed one act, so Jesus Christ committed one act. It was an act of obedience that led Him to the cross where He died for our sin. His one act of obedience was an act of sacrifice, He gave Himself for sinners. What was the result of that one act of obedience? It appeased the wrath of God, it satisfied His justice. Sin was paid for. So God put to the account of His elect the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

As God has imputed to every member of Adam's race the sin of Adam resulting in all men experiencing spiritual death; so God has imputed to every member of the new covenant the righteousness of Jesus Christ. We are accepted before God, justified by the death of Jesus Christ, and His righteousness is imputed to all who believe. Without the doctrine of federal headship, there would be no possibility of salvation.

Is our salvation secure? Our salvation is based upon the act of One person-- Jesus Christ. We are saved and secure by virtue of the one act of our representative; Jesus. In Jesus Christ we received much more than we lost in Adam:

But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. (Romans 5:15 NASB)

How do I know if Jesus Christ is my representative?

"Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life. (John 5:24 NASB)

We know that Jesus Christ is our representative because we trust in Him for eternal life:

Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God; and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him. (1 John 5:1 NASB)

The literal Greek reads like this: "Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ HAS BEEN born of God." If you believe the gospel, you do so because you have been born again. The evidence of the new birth is faith.

Look at yourself in Adam; though you had done nothing, you were declared a sinner. Look at yourself in Christ, and you see that though you have done nothing, you are declared to be righteous. That is the parallel. We must get rid of all thoughts of our actions as far as gaining or keeping salvation. We are justified, declared righteous because of the obedience of Jesus, and Jesus alone! Jesus Christ lived a sinless life in total obedience to the law of God and then died a substitutionary death on our behalf.

and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. (1 Peter 2:24 NASB)

Is our salvation secure? Our salvation is based upon the act of One person­ Jesus Christ. Please get that! The security of our salvation is not based upon our acts. Just as we were all condemned by Adam's act, so also we are made righteous by Jesus Christ's act. We were all condemned through no fault of our own individually, we are also justified through Jesus Christ through no merit of our own. Understanding our condemnation in Adam helps us to see that our salvation is not based upon our works, but upon Christ's finished work. Our salvation is secure, because it is based upon what Christ did for us, not on what we do for ourselves.

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