Category Archives: ROMANS 5:12-21

Section 8

ROMANS 5:12-21

 We now begin a study of that section of the Epistle to the Romans which runs from chapter 5 verse 12 to the end of chapter 8, which deals not so much with what we have done, (the word “sins” is only found once from 5:12-8:39), but what we are. In other words, the criminal, not the crimes he has committed. Now that his sins have been forgiven, what is a believer’s relationship with God? What of the nature which caused him to sin before he was saved? By what power is the Christian life lived? And is the security of the believer assured? These questions, and others besides, are answered in the next sections of the epistle.


5:12  Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:

5:13  (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law.

5:14  Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.

5:15  But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.

5:16  And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgement was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification.

5:17  For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.)

5:18  Therefore as by the offence of one judgement came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.

5:19  For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.

5:20  Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:

5:21  That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord. 



The apostle begins this fresh section of the epistle in which he deals with what we are by nature, by tracing that nature to Adam. By nature is meant those essential features which combine to make a thing what it is. Through the sin and disobedience of the first man, who is the federal head of men as sinners, terrible consequences were passed on to all, which could only be remedied by the death of the Lord Jesus Christ, who becomes the head of those who believe. The teaching of the previous section has prepared the way for what is presented to us now. The apostle assumes we accept the testimony of the early chapters of the Book of Genesis, with its record of the formation of the first man, Adam, his disobedience and fall, and the descent of all mankind from him in a state of sin.


SECTION 8                Romans 5:12-21


Christ and Adam compared and contrasted


 The whole of the purpose of God for mankind centres on the fact that His Son became man, and as such is the second man, the last Adam. He came to “restore that which he took not away”, Psalm 69:4, or, in other words, came to remedy the loss and damage that Adam had brought upon men by his sin.


The passage is very complex, but may be clearer if we note its structure in the following form, where the numbers represent the verses of the section:-

12 [(13-14) 15-17] 18-21.          

 In other words, the main subject is in verses 12 and 18-21, and verses 13-17 form a parenthesis. Inside this parenthesis there is another, consisting of verses 13 and 14.

8 (a) 5:12           Entrance of sin and its consequence.

8 (b) 5:13-14    Existence of sin before the law-age.

8 (c) 5:15           Effect of sin and God’s attitude.

8 (d) 5:16,17    Ending of death’s reign.

8 (e) 5:18           Extending of a gift to all.

8 (f) 5:19            Experience of justification by many.

8 (g) 5:20         Enhancement of sin by the law.

8 (h) 5:21         Ending of sin’s reign.


Looking generally at the passage, we see that verse 12 introduces us to sin and death, verses 13 and 14 show that death is as a result of the sinful nature within, and not normally because of sins committed, verses 15 to 17 deal with death, and verses 18-21 with sin.


5:12  Wherefore  – a logical connection, (“therefore”, on the other hand, means logical consequence). 5:12-21 is not a logical consequence of the preceding chapters, but it does answer the questions that those chapters might raise. It is important to notice that the counterpart of “wherefore as” is the “therefore as” of verses 18, hence the parenthesis of verses 13-17 is required by the grammar of the passage.  As by one man Adam, the first man, and the federal head of the human race as sinners. “God… hath made of one blood all nations of men…” Acts 17:26. Sin the principle of revolt against God, expressed in disobedience. Entered into the world sin existed in Satan before he introduced it into the world of men by means of Adam’s trangression. Adam was the door by which we perish, Christ is the door by which we are saved, John 10:9. Sin found an entrance into Adam’s heart, and through him to the rest of the world of men, for men were constituted sinners by Adam’s fall, verse 19. The man is singled out, even though the woman sinned first, for it is by the man that the nature is passed on to the children. And death by sinphysical death is a direct consequence of Adam’s fall. Because we are sinners we have forfeited the right to continue on the earth, but in the mercy of God we are allowed a period to repent.  And so death passed upon all men because death is the penalty for having a sinful nature, (“the wages of sin is death” 6:23), and that sinful nature is shared by all in the world because of their link with Adam the sinner.  For that all have sinned “for that” means, “on the basis of the fact that”. The fact that the apostle can say, looking back through time, whether during the law-age or before, “all have sinned”, is the basis of the logical conclusion that what Adam did has affected us all, and sin has in fact entered into the whole of the world of men. 


The sin and death which are in the world are the result of the sin of Adam the first man. 


 5:13 (For until the law sin was in the world- the principle of revolt against the rule of God that sin represents was in the world up until the formal giving of the law to Israel at Sinai. But sin is not imputed when there is no law the word translated imputed is only found here and Philemon 18, (“put that on mine account”). It means more than simply thinking of someone in a certain way, but goes further and involves putting something down in an account book as needing to be paid for. So whilst God did not overlook the fact that during the period from Adam to Moses men had sin within, He did not reckon it against them as needing to be paid for by instant death.

 5:14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses despite the foregoing, men still died in the period between Adam’s sin and Moses’ lawgiving. This proves that death is the consequence of having a sinful nature, and not the consequence of sinning. Only in extreme circumstances are men struck down in death by God; it is not the general rule. Even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression that is, those who had not gone against God’s will as expressed in a known law. Adam, like Israel, was formally given God’s law-“thou shalt not eat of it” with a known death penalty for transgression-“thou shalt surely die”, Genesis 2:7. It is said of Israel, “they like Adam have transgressed the covenant”, Hosea 6:7 margin. Men in between Adam and Sinai were not in this situation, and therefore the fact that death reigned over them, (was on the throne in their lives), was due to their nature from Adam, not their sinning like Adam. Who is the figure of Him that was to come the apostle rounds off this parenthesis by bringing together the two men that are to be compared and contrasted, Christ and Adam. Certain features about Adam in his official position as federal head of the human race provide both a comparison and a contrast with Christ the head of the new creation. 


That death has passed upon all men because of the act of another is proved by the fact that men died even though they had not transgressed a law they knew about. In His mercy, God promised the seed of the woman immediately sin had entered into the world. 



The offence of one…the gift in grace which is of one man. 

Note the formula in verses 15,16 and 17- “but not as…so also…for if…much more”. Note too that in verses 13-17 and verse 19, the contrast is between one and many, emphasising the greatness of the problem to be addressed, and the greatness of God’s remedy, whereas in verses 12 and 18, it is between one and all, emphasising the universality of the problem, and the universality of the opportunity for benefitting by the remedy.
 5:15   But not as the offence, so also is the free gift these words serve the dual purpose of introducing both a comparison and a contrast, as would be suggested by the word figure (= type) in verse 14. The keys on a typewriter were mostly the opposite way round to the letter written, but some, (o, v, w, x), were the same. So with Adam and Christ. Both are heads of a race of people, both performed an act which affected those people, and both pass on their characteristics to the people. But the contrast is marked, for Adam brought in sin, death, and God’s judgement, whereas Christ brings in righteousness, life, and justification. The offence=trespass, a false step; an apparently trivial event has had devastating and universal consequences because of the attitude of heart which lay behind the act. The apostle assumes we accept the record of Genesis 3.  The free gift is God’s  gift in grace, freely bestowed. The words offence and gift are the key to the verse.  For if through the offence of one many be dead the long list of men that have died physically down the centuries is directly attributable to the trespass of a single man at the beginning. Much more despite the seemingly insurmountable problem, God has overcome it, not by revoking the command which brought the death, but by introducing something far higher and grander.  The grace of God God’s answer is not further condemnation, John 3:17; Luke 9:56, but the display of grace, unmerited favour to a fallen race. The condemnation of sinners is a righteous necessity, but God has no obligation to bless, yet chooses to do so. And the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ the word “gift” means an act of giving; the word “by ” is literally “in”, speaking of the character of the giving; the second use of the word “by” indicates the personal responsibility placed upon Jesus Christ to deal with the matter of the sin of man.  The grace of God is expressed in the person of Christ, the Last Adam. This contrasts with the personal responsibility of Adam for his offence (the offence of one) and its consequences.  Hath abounded unto many the cup of blessing is brimful and overflows in grace to the same number, “the many”, affected by Adam’s offence. 


The offence of one man, Adam, has resulted in the death of the many in the world, but the superabounding grace of God in Christ is expressed to that same number.



Death reigned through (the agency of) one…reign in life through (the agency of) one. 

5:16  And not as it was by one that sinnedthe emphasis is now on the one person, rather than the one act of offending.  So is the gift that spoken of in verse 15, and defined in verse 17 as the gift of righteousness. The phrase “and not” emphasizes that the gift is of a different character to the offence whose effects have been passed on to us, Adam’s gift was deadly! Christ’s is life-giving. “So is” emphasizes that there is a comparison between what the two men did. For the judgement was by one by is “ek” meaning “out of”, indicating the source. Opinions differ whether one means one man, Adam, or one offence. The comparison with many offences would suggest the latter, although the many offences are committed by many. The point is that there is a great obstacle to be overcome, since one sin has had such ruinous effects, yet there has been a multitude of people since who have committed a multitude of sins, which makes the situation much worse.  Unto condemnation the word means “verdict pronounced with punishment following” a stronger word than is usually used, indicating the gravity of the situation. God’s verdict (“judgement”) went against man, and condemnation in the form of physical death was the result.  But the free gift the apostle now reverts back to his original word for gift used in verse 15, grace-gift, indicating how the obstacle of so many sins, (whose presence proves that man is under condemnation), is dealt with. Only grace can do this; the law is powerless, 8:3.  Is of many offences again “of” means “out of”, indicating the source. Just as the one sin of Adam was the reason why condemnation came, so in the wisdom of God, He has seen the many offences of Adam’s descendants as an opportunity for acting in grace, to His own glory. So the free gift is as a result of Adam’s sin, and its need to be remedied. This truth was misapplied by Paul’s opponents in 6:1. Unto justification “unto” means “with a view to”, for not all come into the good of what God is prepared to do. Not only does God justify in the sense of reckoning righteous, but in the context here justification means the lifting of the condemnation of death, giving the authority to reign in life. In this way the end of verse 16 prepares the way for the truth of verse 17.

5:17  For if by one man’s offence death reigned by onethe offence of Adam brought death upon men as a tyrant ruling their lives. There is no other cause for death’s reign, for “by one” is repeated to reinforce the point. Much more again there is the counteracting of Adam’s fall, but also further blessing. See verse 20, “where sin abounded, grace did much more abound”.  They which receive abundance of grace the grace of God mentioned in verse 15, is available. Note the apostle limits it to “they which receive”, not the “many” in general; in other words, believers, not men generally. And of the gift of righteousness the gift consisting of righteousness. Shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ)- instead of merely overthrowing the tyrant death, God enables the believer to reign, but only by the agency and strength of Jesus Christ. Note the “shall”, the full realisation of reigning in life is reserved for the future, although to be anticipated now, as detailed in chapter 6.  


By the agency of one man, Adam, death reigned over his race, but by the agency of another man, Jesus Christ, God’s grace ensures that those who receive His gift of righteousness reign in life, both now and in the future. And just as the one offence of one man was the starting point of the condemnation, so the many offences of many men has been viewed by God as the starting-point of a process which results in the condemnation being removed.  



Judgement came upon all…free gift came upon all. 

5:18 Therefore as means “so then”, the counterpart to the “wherefore as” of verse 12. The intervening verses have cleared the way for the truths of verses 18 and 19, and the apostle is now free to take the argument forward. By the offence of one the spotlight is again on two federal heads.  Judgement came upon all men to condemnation the word judgement has been supplied by the Authorised Version from verse 16 to give the sense. The sentence of the Judge went against Adam and his race.  Even so there is a straight comparison now, instead of the “as…much more” of the previous verses.  By the righteousness of one the one supreme act of righteousness which Christ accomplished on the cross. Not His personal righteousness, for the meaning is fixed by the word used. The act of Adam in making a false step in relation to the will of God, is directly contrasted with the act of Christ when He fulfilled the will of God at the cross.  The Lord Jesus was not dealing with sin during His life, or else He would have been forsaken of God then as well.  It was only during the hours of darkness upon the cross that He was forsaken by His God.  The free gift came upon all men now “free gift” is supplied from verse 16. Upon means “towards”- just as the condemnation came towards all, so does the gift.  Unto justification of life with a view to a cancellation of the condemnation, negatively, and the introduction into life in Christ, positively. Life in Christ is the theme of chapters 6 and 8. 

SUMMARY: There is a correspondence between the consequence of Adam’s act, and that of Christ. The one was an offence which brought condemnation, the other was an act of righteousness which brings justification.



One man’s disobedience….obedience of one. 

5:19  For as a more precise comparison even than the “as…even so” of verse 18, representing a refinement of the reasoning, which finds its climax in this verse with its doctrine of the nature of men in Adam and men in Christ. How does verse 19 advance the argument, since it is so similar to verse 18? The answer is two-fold- 1. The apostle now speaks of man by their constitution, made sinners and made righteous. 2. He implies how the state of being righteous is attained, for the disobedience of Adam may be contrasted not only with the obedience of Christ, but by inference with the obedience of faith.  By one man’s disobedience the word is made up of two words, aside, and hear, giving the idea of refusal to hear. Adam had heard the command of God, but chose to “turn a deaf ear”.  Many were made sinners made means “constituted”, the word being most often used of appointment to a position. The position appointed to men in Adam is that of being a sinner. So by the obedience of one Christ’s obedience to God even to the extent and extremity of the cross is in view, Philippians 2:8. Adam simply had to refrain from eating of the tree of knowledge, Christ had a heavy and sorrowful task before Him, but did not waver in His obedience.  Shall many be made righteous here the righteousness is based on the obedience of Christ, to preserve the contrast with Adam, whereas previously in the epistle the apostle has shown that it is by the obedience of our faith that righteousness is imputed to us.  


Adam’s disobedience resulted in man being constituted a sinner, whereas the obedience of Christ in going to the cross to deal with sin in obedience to His Father, has brought a state of righteousness to those who are linked to Him by the obedience of faith. 


 Having prepared the ground for a consideration of the believer’s life in Christ as detailed in chapters 6 and 8, the apostle now prepares for chapter 7, with its consideration of the believer in relation to the law of Moses.

5:20  Moreover the law entered  the law of Moses came onto the scene as a side-issue, “came side-ways in”. This shows that Adam was not put under law as the nation of Israel was at Sinai, as some teach. That the offence might abound not in the sense that the number of sins might be increased, but that they might be shown in their true light, so that by a formal giving of the law what was wrong might be highlighted. By this means the initial offence of Adam, verse 15, was exposed in the offences of his race, verse 16. But where sin abounded as the law showed up its evil. The apostle reverts to the more general term sin, in preparation for the next chapters.  Grace did much more abound the free favour of God is great enough to deal with all the offences, and to bring in positive things as well. Compare the “much more” of the reasoning of verses 15 and 17. 


5:21  That this means “in order that”, for the superabundance of grace has a purpose. As sin hath reigned unto  death the preposition “unto”, is literally “in”, and when it does not denote physical location, it speaks of either power or character, the context deciding. Here the power behind the throne during the reign of sin, is said to be death. Death made sin’s reign a tyranny. Cf. Hebrews 2:15. Even so might grace reign grace so abounds that it dominates the scene, sweeps sin off its throne, and robs death of its power over the believer. Through righteousness sin reigned in death, whereas grace reigns through righteousness. There is not, then, an exact parallel in the two ideas. God does not simply restore man to innocence, but to a position consistent with righteousness. So grace reigns on a righteous basis, in contrast to the reign of sin which was on the basis of the unrighteous act of Adam. Unto eternal life grace superabounds so that not only is death defeated, but eternal life, the life of God, is imparted, not the life of Adam regained. By Jesus Christ our Lord He is the direct means by which grace reigns and eternal life is imparted. This full title is fitting now that He has triumphed through the work of the cross, and overthrown the reign of sin. How believers enter into that triumph is the theme of the next three chapters.