Sometimes I gloss over a passage of scripture, especially when I think to myself, “Yeah, I know this doctrine” and then find myself breezing over the text. Reading Systematic Theologies, learning doctrine, etc. can sometimes make me speed read through Scripture. I’m trying to be more deliberate as of late, and have been doing so in some passages of the theological masterpiece that is the book of Romans.
I was reading through Romans 5:12-21 and the lightbulb just suddenly clicked in my head the other day, and I thought I’d share it. Not only does Paul describe the doctrine of Original Sin in this passage, but he proves it and I’d forgotten how good Paul is at doing that. This is what I love about the epistles in the New Testament. It isn’t simply thus saith the Lord, but it treats us as thinking, rational adults and often seeks to show us why something is true.
In this passage, Paul will prove to us why it is that God counts us guilty in Adam even if we could somehow avoid transgressions against the Law. And he will prove it by showing us that once upon a time, there was a group of people who could avoid having their personal sins counted against them!
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—
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 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.
15 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.
16 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.
17 For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.
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.
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.
20 The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,
21 so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Here is a summation of what Paul is saying. Remember, this is very important!
- Sin and death entered the world through Adam (v.12)
- Remember, the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Death comes about due to sin.
- Adam was warned that death would come to him if he violated God’s commandment: If you eat of the fruit, you will surely die.
- However, sin cannot be imputed when there is no Law (v.13)
- Also see Romans 4:15: “for the Law brings about wrath, but where there is no law, there also is no violation“
- Yet there was death between the time of Adam and the time of Moses! (v. 14)
- Note: The one law that was given to Adam and Eve could not be violated by their descendants, as their descendants could not eat the fruit. Therefore, their descendants could not sin in that fashion. And their other sins (murder, adultery, etc.) could not be held against them because the Law had not been given yet. And still, they died!
- We also note: the single transgression of Adam resulted in condemnation to all (v. 15)
The conclusion one is left with is that in some sense mankind is held guilty in Adam even during the time period in which sin couldn’t be counted against us (before the Law of Moses). This is the doctrine of Original Sin. We are held guilty in some sense because of Adam, our forefather. That we share in his guilt even though we ourselves didn’t physically eat from the fruit!
To be fair, this is a hard doctrine for Western man to accept. Liberal Christianity seems to have abandoned it, or relegate it to the same pile of ‘unpleasantness’ as predestination, Hell, etc. But this is pretty clearly what Paul is teaching. This argument is buttressed even further with Paul’s comparison between Adam and Christ.
And in some ways, the most important part is the flip side of guilt in Adam. For, if condemnation came through the first Adam, and it brought death — a powerful force, then how much greater will the gift come to those who are in the Second Adam (Christ)!
Remember, this is the same formula used. If we are found in Christ, then His righteousness is imputed onto us (v. 17-19). And all we have to do is receive this free gift (16). One act of disobedience brought death (Adam). One act of obedience brought life (Christ).
So who represents you before God? Adam, or Christ?