Pastor David B. Curtis


In Adam or In Christ

Romans 5:12-14

Delivered 06/12/2011

The majority of church goers do not understand that our salvation is not based upon what we 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 our soul.

For the next several weeks we are going to be looking at Romans 5:12-21, which is one of the most theologically important texts in all of the Bible. In his commentary on Romans, Thomas R. Shcreiner says, "Romans 5:12-21 is one of the most difficult and controversial passages to interpret in all the Pauline Literature. 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.

The substance of this paragraph is the parallel and contrast between Adam and Christ. In verses 12-21, Paul explains the solidarity of humankind and how its representative--or federal--head, Adam, brought it into a state of alienation towards God through disobedience. 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

"Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come"--Adam is the type and Christ is the anti-type. Paul calls Jesus the "last Adam":

So also it is written, "The first MAN, Adam, BECAME A LIVING SOUL." The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 1 Corinthians 15:45 NASB

Christ, the last Adam as representative head of the New Covenant community, reconciles His people to God whom Adam had separated from God.

What exactly do we mean by a type? Theologically speaking, a type may be defined as "a figure or example of something future and more or less prophetic, called the 'Antitype'" (E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech Used in the Bible, p. 768).

So we have a type and an anti-type. The type is the picture, the anti-type is the reality. A type is a real, exalted happening in history, which was divinely ordained by the omniscient God to be a prophetic picture of the good things which He purposed to bring to fruition in Christ Jesus.

William G. Moorehead writes this concerning types:

A type is a draft or sketch of some well-defined feature of redemption, and therefore it must in some distinct way resemble its antitype, i.e. Aaron as high priest is a rough figure of Christ the Great High Priest, and the Day of Atonement in Israel (Leviticus 16) must be a true picture of the atoning work of Christ... A type always prefigures something future. A Scriptural type and predictive prophecy are in substance the same, differing only in form... A type always looks to the future; an element of prediction must necessarily be in it. (The Typology of Scripture by William G. Moorehead is reproduced from The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia he, ed. James Orr (Chicago: Howard-Severance Co., 1930), vol. 5, pp. 3029-3030).

A type is an acted out prophecy. It is as truly prophetic as is a spoken prophecy, and had equal value with spoken prophecy in directing the faith of the Israelites to the coming salvation.

Let me give you a couple interpretive principles that we need to keep in mind when studying types: 1. It must be recognized that types are grounded in real history; the people, places, events, etc. were deliberately chosen by God to prepare for the coming of the Christian system.

2. There is a graduation from type to antitype; of the lesser to the greater; from the material to the spiritual; the earthly to the heavenly:

So also it is written, "The first MAN, Adam, BECAME A LIVING SOUL." The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual. 1 Corinthians 15:45-46 NASB

Here Paul is talking about Adam, who he calls a type in Romans 5:14. Then speaking of Adam and Christ Paul says in verse 46 that types go from natural to spiritual. So the type is natural, earthly, material; and the anti-type is spiritual, heavenly, and the fulfillment or reality.

The representative nature of Adam is also the same type of representation that is in Jesus Christ. As Adam represented us in the fall, Jesus Christ represents us on the cross and in the resurrection.

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 we 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" should be read as, "so it comes about" and so 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 (in) by His life. Romans 5:10 NASB

As believers, we are "in Christ"; we share His life. Here the apostle explains our union with Christ. But in order for us to understand what that means, he must first explain our union with Adam. 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 imputation--credit being put to one's account--because 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.

Tom Holland writes, "The typical Western mind approaches the letters of Paul from an individualistic perspective, interpreting all the descriptions about the work of God in the light of individual Christian experience. This was not the way that the early church understood Paul's writings. The letters were to churches about the work of God for His people, and the arguments they contained were inevitably corporate. The change of perspective most detect once we get to v.12 is not Paul's but ours--and it is false. In the West, our cultural conditioning derives largely from Greek culture, and it teaches us to think at an individualistic level."

In order to understand this text, we must understand the corporate nature of it. Verse 12 starts out "Just as"--this 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 comparison--Adam. 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.

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 elect-believers

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.

Adam represents the human race. He is the father of mankind with an all-embracing headship. When he sinned and broke his covenant relationship with God, he took all of his offspring with him into darkness.

Notice that our text says, "through one man sin entered into the world." Paul did not write, "Through one man and one woman sin entered into the world." We see here that Adam, the first man, had a unique responsibility which Eve did not have. Genesis shows that Eve was the one Satan picked to tempt, and in one sense she broke the specific commandment first not to eat of the tree--that made no difference to God or to Paul; they held the man accountable. When God came to call the couple to account, Genesis 3:9 says:

Then the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, "Where are you?" Genesis 3:9 NASB

And when Paul talks about how sin entered the world and how we are all now sinners because of that first sin, he talks about Adam, not Eve, as the head and responsible one. The point is that God holds men responsible for a unique role of leadership.


(1) "Sin entered into the world"

Please notice that Paul does not say that sins have entered into the world. He says that "the sin" has entered into the world. There is a definite article here for sin and death. He is talking about a specific sin and death. Paul is personifying sin and death. In the new exodus thought sin and death play the role of Pharaoh.

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:

But like Adam they have transgressed the covenant; There they have dealt treacherously against Me. Hosea 6:7 NASB

God and Adam were in a covenant relationship and Adam broke it. He turned away from God. 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. The LORD God commanded the man, saying, "From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; 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 will 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'?" The woman said to the serpent, "From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; 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, or you will 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.

The serpent said to the woman, "You surely will not die! "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." 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 fruit--he sinned. Sin is violating the command of God. When Adam sinned--"sin entered into the world."

How did sin enter the world? The Pelagian Theory says that sin entered by others following Adam's bad example. Pelagius wrote, "As long as people sin as Adam sinned they die." But our text says "sin" not "sins." Adam did not bring sin into the world by setting a bad example. Some teach that Adam's sin wrought a constitutional change of unholiness within the heart, and that act resulted in an innate corrupting principle, and he transmitted this to his decedents. I would be more in agreement with Tom Holland who writes:

In biblical terms, the doctrine of original sin has nothing to do with an inherited, inherent distorted nature, but is about being in a condition of enmity towards God because of the sin of our father, Adam. Being born in sin is to be born into the rebellious human race. It is about being part of the kingdom of darkness that Adam's rejection of God has established. As children of Adam, all humankind shares in that same sin and, in so doing, has chosen to reject God.

Theologians call this "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.

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 some time, particularly if you want to refer to ethical misjudgments as "sins." But, babies sinful? 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 born separated from God. 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?" Is he speaking here about physical death or spiritual death? Most commentators say he is talking about physical death. Some say it is physical and spiritual death. Most 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 will 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. The death introduced by Adam is conjoined with "condemnation" in verses 16 and 18:

The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification. ...18 So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. Romans 5:16, 18 NASB

So the "condemnation" that came was spiritual death--separation from God. The death is also contrasted with "eternal life" in verse 21:

so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 5:21 NASB

Which makes it clear that it can hardly be talking about physical death. Also, the comparison in this passage in Romans 5 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. And I believe that all that lived in God's original world would decay and perish, but "death" carried no sting until sin entered the world.

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 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. 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 under the wrath of God.

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--"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 are all born dead? 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. If we don't understand "because all sinned" as "because all sinned in Adam," the entire comparison between Christ and Adam will be distorted.

If you say, "Through one man sin and death entered the world and death spread to everybody because all sinned individually," then the comparison with the work of Jesus could be, "So also through one man, Jesus Christ, righteousness and life entered the world and life spread to all because all individually did acts of righteousness."

So, the question that we must answer is, "How have we all sinned?" The answer comes in understanding: FEDERAL HEADSHIP. Representative or federal headship refers to one who represents a group bound by a common cause or agreement, such as those in a covenant or federation; not only as its spokesperson, but as one whose decisions are binding on the larger group by virtue of the individual's role as federal or representative head.

In saying all sinned in Adam, Paul is emphasizing people groups rather than individuals. Adam is the historical ancestor of every people group on the face of the earth. This is not a myth; it's not an analogy; it's not an illustration. It is historical fact. Adam, the first human being, sinned and in him all human beings sinned, and all died and all are condemned.

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.

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? 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

God is the Creator, we are the creation. Whatever He does is good and right.

We see the idea of Federal headship taught all through the Bible. When Achan took the banned goods in the conquest of Jericho, the Lord told Joshua, "Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them" (v 11). He viewed Israel corporately through one man's act. 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. 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.

When David and Goliath met on the field of battle, they were representatives of each one's nation and army. The Philistines were defeated because Goliath represented them. 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?

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 person--Jesus Christ, our representative.

for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Romans 5:13 NASB

The Law here is "ha torah"--the Law of Moses. In other words, sin existed from the time of Adam to the time of Moses when the Mosaic Law was given. But, the sin that existed from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, since the Law of Moses was not in existence, was not imputed to those people who sinned. Sin is not imputed when there is no law:

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

"The death" that reigned is not physical death, but spiritual death. It's the same "the death" of verse 12. Paul is trying to show that men were spiritually dead because of Adam's sin. Sin's not imputed when there is no law. Sin existed, but sin is not reckoned to men. But men were dead. Well, if they were dead, they died as a penalty for sin, but since there is no law from Adam to Moses, the breaking of which could be reckoned to them, and yet they were dead, they must, therefore, have broken some law. What law is it that they broke? There's only one. The same law that Adam broke. They were dead because they died in their representative, Adam. He sinned, and they are reckoned to have sinned in him.

So, death reigned from Adam to Moses, that's the dominion of death. That's conclusive proof of Paul's viewpoint here that they sinned in Adam. Because of man's solidarity with Adam, judgment has come on all; but the same principle of solidarity will become the means by which man can become righteous. This is because another representative head, the last Adam, was waiting in the wings to come on to the stage of human conflict.

The end of verse 14 says, "Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come." Literally this is, "Who is a type of the about to come One"--this is a reference to the Parousia of Christ. Jesus is the second Adam who brings man back into the presence of God, but this does not happen until the Parousia:

The Holy Spirit is signifying this, that the way into the holy place has not yet been disclosed while the outer tabernacle is still standing, Hebrews 9:8 NASB

In other words, it is the Holy Spirit who is responsible for the record given to us of the Old Covenant. And the significance of the outer tabernacle being divided and separated from the inner tabernacle was that the way into the presence of God had not yet been given. The Jews were continually reminded, by the physical presence of the tabernacle, that they were not allowed to enter into the presence of God.

The words "while the outer tabernacle is still standing" might better be translated, "while the first tabernacle still has any standing"--while the Old Covenant was still in force. As long as the Old Covenant was still in effect men did not have access to the presence of God. Prior to Jesus' Second Coming, at which He destroyed the temple and the Old Covenant, no one went to Heaven.

to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 1 Peter 1:4-5 NASB

Adam was a type of "Him who was about 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.

So the issue is not whether one is a good moral citizen, but whether one is in Adam or in Christ. In Adam, men and women belong to sin by virtue of Adam's headship; in Christ, they belong to God by virtue of Christ's headship.

How do I know if Jesus Christ is my representative?:

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.

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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