Romans Chapter 5

1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,

2 through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.

Verses one and two point out the three salvations that apply to us – ‘peace with God’ refers to salvation from the punishment for sin, the ‘grace in which we stand’ refers to our potential to be saved from the power of sin, and ‘hope of the glory of God’ refers to our future salvation from the presence of sin.

The first two are obtained by faith and through Jesus Christ; the third is automatically yours if you have the first.

3 And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance;

4 and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope;

5 and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

Our trials help us to not give up in our quest for developing the nature of God. As a result, we ultimately do get that character, and when we see this change in ourselves we begin to believe that one day, when Jesus returns, we will be just like Jesus.

This hope that we have does come to fruition because, through the Holy Spirit in us, God pours out His love so that we can receive it, experience it, and then exhibit it to others.

6 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.

7 For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die.

8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath {of God} through Him.

10 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.

We can do good because God gives us an example of how He did good to us. This is the secret of being super good to others and loving them greatly: meditate on how much God has loved you.

The type of love God has is a love for the godly. Man’s love is just for those who do good to him, rarely for those who merely do what is right, and certainly not for those who hurt him.

If the death of Christ was of such great value to us, think of how much more value the life of Christ (that is, the way He behaved while alive on earth) will be to us.

11 And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.

This act of Christ is the basis of our being able to do good on two counts: by impact (it enables us to do good) and by example (it motivates us to do good).

Paul is ecstatic about what Jesus did to get us back to God. Thinking about how much God loved Paul energized Paul. It is with this momentum that we go into Chapter Six and overcome sin. In the next few verses Paul will explain why he is so thrilled about what Christ did.

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 –

Rom 5:12-19 is a very misunderstood passage. For this reason, I think it is appropriate to go over it in greater detail.

When Paul says "therefore" at the beginning of verse 12 he is saying that "in view of what I’ve just said (i.e. Rom 5:1-11) I am now going to say something else." "Therefore" indicates continuity, or a link between the previous verses and the coming verses. We need to keep in mind what Paul said in Rom 5:1-11 in order to fully understand what he is saying in Rom 5:12-19.

So what did Paul say before Rom 5:1-11? This is addressed in the section titled "The pre-context of the passage" at the end of this page.

"Just as" indicates a comparison. Paul is showing you two things that are similar. He is trying to explain one thing by comparing it to another thing that is already known or easier to understand. He is saying, "Just as this is true, that is also true".

As will become clear soon, Paul is saying, "JUST AS sin, and death through sin, entered the world through one man and spread to all men, SO ALSO justification and righteousness entered through one Man and spread to all men." Paul is trying to explain how "one man’s act can result in the justification of many" with the help of the concept of how "one man’s sin resulted in the death of many".

The point in the comparison is regarding how two things entered through one man and spread to all men. One of the two things is sin, and the other is salvation from sin. The main theme of this whole passage (Rom 5:12-19) is the similarity and differences of the entering and the spreading of sin and salvation from sin. However, many other things can be learnt from this passage.

There are several things to point out in verse 12.

First, note that sin is the cause, and (spiritual) death is the effect. The wages of sin is (spiritual) death (Rom 6:23). One man sinned, and therefore he died. All men sinned and therefore they died.

Side note: For my explanation of why the wages of sin is just spiritual death and not also physical death see the section on "The wages of sin: spiritual death".

Second, note that death spread to all men because all of them sinned – not because of the sin of one man. In other words, death (the wages of the one man’s sin) was not imputed on all men. On the contrary, all men die because of their own sin. If a man had not sinned he would not have died. The relation between sin and death is personal, not imputative.

If Paul had wanted to say that death spread to all men because of the sin of one man then he would have said something like, "… and death spread to all men, because of one man’s sin". Paul didn’t say the latter, and therefore verse 12 does not teach original sin.

The choice of the word "spread" is also significant. It indicates a progression in the movement of death. You get the idea that death did not reach a man until he sinned.

If Paul had wanted to say that death was man’s destiny even before he was born he would have not used the word "spread". He would have said something like, "death was the lot of all men because of one man’s sin".

It should be clear that this verse does not teach that Adam’s sin (or the wages of Adam’s sin) was imputed on all men. Nor does it teach that we all sinned in Adam. Both of these notions are not scriptural.

Verse 12 does tell us that because Adam sinned, all men sinned. Verse 12 does not explain why or how all men sinned because Adam sinned, but it does indicate that the fact that all men sinned is causally related to the fact of Adam’s sin. This is because of the use of "and so" in "… and death through sin, and so death spread to all men…"

Note also that Paul says, "all men sinned" and "death spread to all men" – not "all sinned" or "all human beings sinned" and not "death spread to all" or "death spread to all human beings". This is because he is conscious of the fact that until children get the knowledge of good and evil their actions are not considered sin. For more details on the spiritual state of children please read the section on "God’s definition of sin".

So then, to summarize, verse 12 simply tells us:

  • Sin is the cause of (spiritual) death.
  • Adam’s sin resulted in all men sinning.
  • The relationship between one man’s action and the action of all men others may be compared to another similar relationship between one and many.

I believe that Paul explicitly begins this whole passage with the personal causal relationship between sin and death (that is, if I sin I die, if you sin you die; I don’t die if you sin, and you don’t die if I sin) so that we don’t conclude that Adam’s sin was imputed on anyone else. He must have done this because he knew that considerable insight is needed to understand this passage.

So how did Adam’s sin result in all men sinning? This is answered in the paragraphs below.

We know that, before the Fall, Adam (and Eve) had a spirit and flesh. Specifically, they did not have the knowledge of good and evil. They didn’t know how to distinguish between right and wrong.

From the discussion on "God’s definition of sin" we see that, because of their lack of the knowledge of good and evil, any act of the flesh that Adam (or Eve) may have done was not considered sin. This is because they had no explicit law (except that they should not eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil), and no implicit law (that comes by having the knowledge of good and evil). The only way that they could have sinned was to disobey the one law they had and eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

Consider what would have happened if Adam and Eve had not eaten from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. At some point they would have had children. These children would also not have had the knowledge of good and evil (as long as they didn't eat of that tree). These children would in turn have had children, and thus the whole human race would not have the knowledge of good and evil. Consequently, whatever fleshly acts these people would have done, God would not consider those fleshly acts as sin for the same reason that He didn’t consider Adam and Eve’s fleshly acts as sin.

Now consider what happened because Adam and Eve ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. When they ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil they violated the only law that God gave them and hence they sinned, and as a result they died (spiritually).

In addition, Adam and Eve also now had the knowledge of good and evil. This is the only change that occurred to them upon eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Now that they had the knowledge of good and evil, all their children (which they had after they ate of the tree) were also condemned to inherit this ability to know (or distinguish between) good and evil. Based on God’s definition of sin, because of their knowledge of good and evil, the children now had an implicit law under which they operated, and God could not consider their fleshly acts as blameless. In fact, because of their knowledge of good and evil God had to consider their fleshly acts as sin.

Thus we see that after the fall, as children were born and grew into adults, they acquired the knowledge of good and evil as part of their maturing. The first fleshly act done after they got this knowledge was considered sin. As a result human beings died spiritually soon after they acquired the knowledge of good and evil. This is how death spread to all men. By the way, to understand why I say that children are not born with the knowledge of good and evil please read the section on "God’s definition of sin".

Thus we see that Adam’s sin was not imputed onto the human race, nor did the whole human race sin in Adam. On the contrary, Adam’s sin resulted in the human race inheriting the knowledge of good and evil.

To summarize, because of Adam’s sin, the whole human race was condemned to inherit the knowledge of good and evil. Having a flesh the human race naturally engaged in fleshly acts. Because of God’s definition of sin, the combination of the flesh and the knowledge of good and evil was a deathly combination. This is how, because of Adam’s sin, sin spread to all men, and death spread to all men because all men 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.

Verse 13 and 14 were written to explain the phrase "because all sinned" found in verse 12. That is why verse 13 begins with "For".

It is easy to understand that after the Law was given all sinned because no one could keep the Law. But how could people have sinned before the Law was given?

When Paul writes that "all sinned" he immediately anticipates the question, "How could anyone have sinned before the Law of Moses was given?" After all, in Rom 4:15 Paul had just written that where there is no law there is no violation. In fact, he states that objection again in verse 13 saying, "but sin is not imputed when there is no law."

To answer the objection Paul simply states the conclusion in verse 13, which is, "until the law sin was in the world."

Paul does not elaborate on this further because he already explained this earlier in Rom 2:12-16. There he showed that the law in operation for the Gentiles was the law of God written in their hearts, which was their conscience. So there really was a law in operation until the Law came. When people violated their conscience (and they all did that at some point or the other) they sinned.

Then, in verse 14, he uses the word "nevertheless" to override the objection, and he then builds upon his statement that sin was in the world even before the Law came.

Because sin was present even before the law, death (the consequence of sin) reigned from Adam until Moses (which is the period during which there was no Law). This is why death also spread to all men who lived in the time from Adam to Moses, even before the Law was given.

Adam had sinned by explicitly disobeying God’s command. Those who sinned between the time of Adam and Moses did not explicitly disobey God’s command because they didn’t eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and God did not explicitly give them any other command. They sinned by disobeying God’s implicit command – written in their hearts. They had received this implicit command because they inherited the knowledge of good and evil from Adam. This is what Paul means when he says that these people "did not sin in the likeness of the offense of Adam."

The last part of verse 14, "who is a type of Him who was to come" is an introduction to the next part of this passage, which is where Paul was trying to get to in the beginning. Paul’s aim was to bring out the similarities and differences between Adam and Christ. In verse 12 Paul pointed out how sin and death came to the whole human race through one man – Adam. In the next few verses he wants to point out how salvation comes through one man – Jesus Christ. It is in this way that Adam is a type of (or shadow of, or picture of) Christ.

Paul’s point is that just as things operated with Adam and mankind (sin ‘entered through one, spread to many human beings’) so also it operates with Christ and mankind (salvation entered through one, spread to many human beings’).

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.

In verse 15 Paul compares the free gift with the transgression. As we have seen in the verses before, ‘the transgression’ is Adam’s sin. The ‘grace of God and the gift by the grace of Jesus Christ’ is the ‘gift of righteousness’ mentioned in verse 17, that is, our ‘being made righteous’ (i.e. our justification).

Paul’s point is two-fold. Firstly, because of one man’s transgression many died, but because of one man’s free gift many will receive salvation. In this way (that is, one man’s deed affects many) the transgression and the free gift are similar. Secondly, the free gift is more powerful – it does ‘much more’. In this way it is not like the transgression, which is why Paul uses ‘for’ at the beginning of the second sentence of verse 15. The ‘for’ indicates that the second sentence is explaining why the free gift is not like the transgression.

In what way does the free gift do much more than the transgression? Adam’s transgression caused man to be responsible for sins done against his conscience. After the Law came man’s responsibility increased to sins done against the Law as well. The free gift of justification took care of not just the sins of the conscience but also the sins against the Law. In this sense the free gift did much more good than the bad that Adam’s transgression did. This is made clear in verse 16.

Note that Paul does not say that ‘all died’ – he says ‘many died’. This is because children do not die a spiritual death until they get the knowledge of good and evil. Thus those children who die (physically) before they get the knowledge of good and evil do not die spiritually. They are not affected by Adam’s transgression.

Note that Paul does not say that the gift of eternal life abounds to all – he says that it abounds to many. This indicates his recognition that not all will be saved – there will be some human beings who will perish.

16 And 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.

In verse 16 Paul now compares the gift with the judgment that arose from Adam’s transgression. The ‘that which came through the one who sinned’ refers to the judgment that Paul talks about in the next sentence of verse 16. That is why Paul begins with the word ‘for’ in the second sentence of verse 16. The ‘for’ indicates that the second sentence is explaining why the free gift is not like the judgment which came through the one who sinned.

Judgment is defined as labeling a person as having done right (righteous) or wrong (sinner). Condemnation is defined as specifying the penalty for a person’s wrong action. Specifically, a sinner is condemned to spiritual death.

Without a conscience (an inherent law applicable to the man) God could not judge man as being a sinner or a righteous person. Once man had a conscience it opened man to God’s judgment. When that judgment was ‘sinner’ it resulted in man being condemned to spiritual death. That is why Paul mentions ‘judgment’ and ‘condemnation’ here.

The ‘many transgressions’ that Paul mentions to here refers to the way the people put Jesus to death though Jesus was innocent. Adam was not deceived or forced into sin. Remember it was Eve who was deceived, not Adam. On the other hand, the Pharisees forcibly put Jesus to death.

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.

Verse 17 is very similar to verse 15, except that in verse 17 we get more information on what the gift is – the gift or righteousness. That is, the righteousness of Christ is given to us. This imputation of Christ’s righteousness upon us is also known as our justification.

Verse 17 also reminds us that these are things we receive from God as a free gift. These are not earned in any way, especially not by doing any good deeds – these gifts must simply be accepted by faith.

The ‘for if’ at the beginning of verse 17 indicates that it was written to explain verse 16. Paul puts verse 15 to explain verse 16 and then repeats verse 15 almost exactly as verse 17 to emphasize that explanation.

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.

Verse 18 is very similar to verse 16, except that in verse 18 we get more information as to the scope of verse 16. Verse 18 tells us that the condemnation mentioned in verse 16 fell upon all men. It also tells us that justification was made available to all men.

The "so then" at the beginning of verse 18 indicates that Paul is summarizing what he just said. He made his point in verse 16, and used verse 15 and verse 17 to back it up. Now he reiterates verse 16 in verse 18.

Note that Paul says, "all men" – not "all human beings" or "all" when referring to the scope of the condemnation. This is because he is conscious of the fact that children do not receive the knowledge of good and evil at birth (Deut 1:39). However, they are condemned to receive it before they become adults (men or women).

Note also that Paul says, "all men" – not "all human beings" or "all" when referring to the scope of the justification. This is because he is conscious of the fact that children do not need to be justified, as their acts are not sinful.

In addition, note that Paul clearly teaches that the free gift of being made righteous (or being justified) is offered to all men. This contradicts the doctrine of Limited Atonement, which teaches that Christ’s atonement was only for the elect.

Although one could argue that this verse teaches that all men will be saved, such a position cannot be true because there are other verses in Scripture that clearly teach that not all men will be saved – there will be some who perish. Thus, in order to be consistent with the rest of Scripture, in this case the ‘all’ refers to the offer of salvation, not the receipt of salvation. This is similar to the condemnation whereby all men became capable of sinning. That is, just as the judgment opened the possibility of sinning, so also the righteousness of Christ opened the possibility of salvation from sin.

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.

The first part of verse 19 is similar to verse 12. In verse 12 Paul was stating how one man’s sin resulted in all men sinning. He was saying that to also say what he now says in the latter part of verse 19 – that through one man’s obedience many will be made righteous. But he didn’t get a chance to say it in verse 12 because he had to point out a whole bunch of things in verses 13 to 18. Now he comes back to what he was saying in verse 12 and completes his point.

The "for" indicates that Paul is using verse 19 to support verse 18. So, it appears that the main point of what Paul was trying to say was made in verse 16, supported by verse 15, and then supported again in verse 17, reiterated in verse 18, and supported in verse 19. Verse 12 was begun with the intent of supporting verse 18, but was left incomplete in order to address the points mentioned in verses 13 and 14, and was finally completed in verse 19. Verse 13 and 14 were needed to explain objections that might arise when reading verse 12. It is important to recognize this structure in this passage because it explains why things are repeated almost identically in different verses.

Note that in verse 19 Paul says, "many were made sinners". Compare this will the "all men sinned" in verse 12. This tells us that the "all men" are part of a bigger group, namely "all human beings". "All men" constitute the "many human beings" and exclude the children (who also belong to the group of "all human beings").

Note also that Paul says, "many were made sinners". They were not born sinners but they were made sinners. This contradicts the doctrine that all are born with original sin and "sin because they are sinners, and are not sinners because they sin".

Note also that Paul says, "many will be made righteous". This indicates that our explanation of the last part of verse 18 – "there resulted justification of life to all men" – was correct. It is not that all men will be made righteous or justified, but that justification is offered to all men, yet not all men will choose to accept the free gift of justification.

Finally, let me say this: I understand that there are many interpretation of Rom 5:12-19 out there, but I have never seen any of them properly explain (as I do above) why Paul uses the word ‘many’ in some places and ‘all’ in other places. Every word of scripture is important, and any explanation of complex passages must not leave out any word unexplained.

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.

Having compared the difference between the acts of Adam and Christ Paul now points out the effect of the Law – it increased transgressions. However, Paul still affirms that even after taking into account this increase in sin due to the Law it is still true that more good than evil was done, and that was possible only because of the work of Jesus Christ.

It is this ability to do good that Paul is going to focus on in the next chapter, Romans Six.

The pre-context of the passage

In the first three chapters of Romans Paul talked about how all men were guilty before God. In the last part of the third chapter (Rom 3:21-31) Paul talked about justification apart from the Law. In chapter four Paul talks about Abraham’s justification by faith even before the Law.

In Rom 5:1-5 Paul summarizes the gospel, which is a three-fold salvation: salvation from the penalty of sin (verse 1), salvation from the power of sin (verses 3-5), and salvation from the presence of sin (verse 2). Verse one talks about justification, and verse two talks about our having a hope of acquiring the glory of God (i.e. His character) when we receive our glorified body. Verses three to five talk about how, because of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, we have the power to triumph in tribulation.

Paul summarizes things in Rom 5:1-5 just to come back up from his detailed discussion on justification (salvation from the penalty of sin) to a high level from which he will move to his next topic – salvation from the power of sin (which he does in Romans chapter six).

In the summary above I have stated things very briefly – there is a lot more needed to be said in order to explain what I have said, but it is out of scope over here.

Rom 5:6-8 points out the nature of God’s love for us – Christ died for us while we were His enemies. Rom 5:9-11 then points out that if God was willing to do so much for us while we were His enemies how much more will He be willing to do for us now that we are reconciled to Him. In addition, he also points out (in verse 10) that if Christ’s death was beneficial to us (it saved us from the penalty of sin) how much more will His life be beneficial to us (it saves us from the power of sin – which is the leading into Romans chapter six).

However, before going to Romans chapter six Paul points out (in Rom 5:12-19) two more things – first, how the reconciliation through Christ is similar to the condemnation that resulted due to Adam’s sin, and second, how the reconciliation through Christ was much more than the separation effected through Adam’s sin. That is, the Jews were also reconciled from the separation that arose due to our transgressing the Law.

Thus, the ‘therefore’ in Rom 5:12 refers to the reconciliation mentioned in the last part of Rom 5:11.


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