Romans, Lesson 10: Jesus and Adam: One Brings Death, the Other Gives Life

God Confronts Adam and EvePaul keeps driving home the point that our salvation is God’s doing, not a result of what we do.  He earlier described us as being “weak” in relation to God.  Getting his foot in the door, Paul’s descriptions of us in our sinful nature then became worse: ungodly (that is, without God) and sinners.  If we do have any activity related to God, it is as “enemies” (Romans 5:6-10).  So is our state of being apart from the righteousness God gives us through the faithfulness of Christ.

Paul now contrasts the source of our sin with the source of our righteousness.


The Universal Reign of Sin

Genesis 3:6:

When the woman [Eve] saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and attractive in appearance, and was desirable for making one wise, she took some of its fruit and ate it.  She also gave some to her husband [Adam], who was with her, and he ate it.

Genesis 3:19: [God speaking to Adam:] “You are soil, and to the soil you will return [meaning death].”

Read Romans 5:12

  • What did Adam bring into the world?


  • Discuss: Why does Adam receive the blame and not Eve for this universal state of sin?


  • What is a result of sin?


  • What does the existence of death prove about everyone being guilty (“all sinned”) by the sin received from Adam?


  • Discuss: The “age of accountability” holds that God does not hold someone guilty of sin until his intellectual capabilities can grasp the concept of sin and its consequences. If true, according to this verse, what then should not happen until someone reaches that age?


Earlier Paul stated: “Where there is no Law, there is no transgression” [“stepping over” the line] (Romans 4:15).  Now he deals with this possible question, “How can Adam be guilty of sin when God had not yet given His Mosaic Law?”  Instead of answering, however, Paul points to the result of sin (death) from the time of Adam to Moses to point to the Law’s Fulfiller. 

Read Romans 5:13-14a

If we don’t understand what Paul means when he uses the word “Law,” we will misunderstand him.




Read Romans 5:14

“whose sinning”: Greek, hamartano, “missing the mark, not meeting the standard.”  Those who came after Adam, but before the Mosaic Law, “didn’t meet the standard” of God’s moral Law, even though their sins were not measured by the Mosaic Law.

“transgression of Adam”: Greek, parabasis: Adam “stepped over the line,” the line being a specific command from God.  God told Adam, “Don’t eat from the tree,” with a stipulated consequence: death.

  • Who was Adam?


“type”: Something that or someone who prefigures something or someone else.

Adam is a picture, a foreshadowing, of Jesus.  The question is “How?  In what way does Adam show us a picture of Jesus?”


Christ More than Overcomes Adam

Paul now makes two statements, each including “not as” (Greek, ou hos).  Paul could have started Romans 5:15 with “But” instead of “But not as.”  In Romans 5:16, Paul could have said, “And” instead of “And not as.”  Paul adds “not as” to emphasize he is not making an ordinary comparison (but), but an extraordinary comparison (but not as).

And to amp it up even further, Paul adds two uses of “much more” (Greek, polus mallon).  This helps show the superiority of Christ and the results of His obedience contrasted against Adam and the results of his disobedience.

“many”: Paul uses “the many,” which was a Hebrew expression to mean “all.”

Romans 5:15 Romans 5:16-17
But not as the trespass is the gift:


By the trespass of the one man, the many died


—how much more—


the grace of God in His gift through the one man, Jesus Christ, overflows to the many.


And not as the one man’s sin is the gift:


The judgment from the one man sinning is condemnation, but the gift followed by many trespasses is righteousness.  By the trespass of the one man, death ruled through that one


—how much more—


those who receive the overflow of grace and the gift of righteousness through the one man, Jesus Christ.



  • According to Romans 5:15, to whom does God’s grace flow?


  • According to Romans 5:16, who benefits from God’s overflow of grace?


Paul now repeats himself about the universality of what both Adam and Jesus did. 

Read Romans 5:18-19

Cause Effect
one trespass [Adam’s fall into sin] condemnation for all
one act of righteousness [Jesus’ act of salvation] justification [righteousness] and life for all
one man’s disobedience [Adam] the many [all] were made sinners
one Man’s obedience [Jesus] the many [all] will be made righteous


  • Whom did Jesus objectively save, even apart from the person’s faith?


Read Romans 5:20-21

Paul has already said no one will be righteous before God by doing the works of the Law, for through the Law comes an awareness of sin, not righteousness (Romans 3:20).  Then, Paul said the Law brings down God’s wrath, for the Law lets us know we’ve transgressed (Romans 4:15).

Now, Paul affirms the Law entered the world, which increased wrongdoing (Romans 5:20a).  (How’s that for chopping down the works-righteousness?)  Why did the Law “increase the trespass”?  The Law revealed God’s expectations and people now violated specific commandments of God’s Law, just as Adam did.  Thus, sin increased.

But this increase of sin led to an increase of God’s grace!  God did not leave us in the lurch: “Where sin increased, grace increased all the more” (Romans 5: 20b).  This superabundance of grace, to which Paul refers, is the appearance of the second Adam, Jesus Christ.


Excursus: Objective and Subjective Justification

Right before Jesus died, He cried from the cross, “It is completed” (John 19:30).  Jesus just completed what He came to do in His life and death.  Yet, what was that?  Did Jesus die only for those who would be saved?  Or did He die for the entire world?  Exactly, what did Jesus “complete”?

To know what Jesus “completed,” we need to look to other Scriptures to know what the “it” of Jesus statement, “It is completed,” means.  Earlier in John, after speaking to Nicodemus about being born of water and Spirit, of being born from above, Jesus connected that to the sacrifice He would soon make for the world.

  • This is how God loved the world: He gave His one-and-only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. [John 3:16]

And so from John 3:16, we find that Scripture teaches universal grace.  Scripture reveals God’s love in Christ, which extends to every single human being of all time.

Yet, Scripture also teaches universal atonement: “The next day John [the Baptizer] saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!’” (John 1:29).  When Jesus takes away the wins of the world, the world becomes reconciled with God.

Scripture teaches this elsewhere: “God was reconciling the world to himself through Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:19).  Jesus is the universal peacemaker.  His sacrifice on the cross removed the sin barrier between us and God—and where sin is no more, peace and reconciliation now exist with God.  In Christ, the status between God and the human race has changed from one of hostility to peace.

And if that were not enough, Scripture also teaches universal forgiveness: “God was reconciling the world to himself through Christ, not counting people’s sins against them” (2 Corinthians 5:19).  Forgiveness is the removal of sin, that is, the sin is “left behind.”  Sin and its guilt are no longer charged against you.

  • Psalm 32:1: Blessed is the one whose wrongdoing is forgiven, whose sin is pardoned!
  • Romans 4:7-8: Blessed are those whose disobedience is forgiven and whose sins are pardoned. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord will never count against them.

God held the sin of the world against Jesus, where He, the sinless One, took those sins into Himself, and took its eternal consequences away from us (2 Corinthians 5:21).

And to top it off, Scripture even teaches a universal or objective justification.

  • Romans 3:23-24: For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and they [the “all” just mentioned] are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
  • Romans 5:18-19: So then, just as condemnation for all people came through one transgression [the Fall into sin], so also through one righteous act [the salvation Jesus accomplished for us] there is justification and life for all people. For just as through one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so also through the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.

The Apostle Paul contrasts the first Adam with the second Adam, Jesus Christ.  The first Adam brought death; the second Adam, Jesus Christ, brought life.  The sin of the first resulted in universal condemnation; the obedience and sacrifice of the second brought universal (or objective) justification.

So then, why isn’t everyone saved?


Jesus’ Objective Justification Received by Faith

The completed, objective reality of God’s “not-guilty” verdict in Christ is real.  It is an-already, accomplished fact and reality.  God’s verdict of “not-guilty” stands for the entire world, regardless of someone’s faith or knowledge.  Yet, this truth must be appropriated or personalized for each person to receive the benefit of God’s verdict.

For who can believe that he is righteous before God, or that his sins are forgiven, unless they are forgiven even before he believes it!  If we believe in something that becomes true by our believing it, then our act of believing saves us, not Jesus.  Instead, Christianity holds that we believe in something that is already true before we believe it: We are forgiven and righteous in Christ.  Because it is true, we believe it.

The Apostle Paul taught this same truth.  As he preached, he followed his presentation of “objective justification” by next speaking of “subjective justification”:

So, brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you [Note the present tense: this is an objective reality even if someone doesn’t believe it].  Everyone who believes in Him is justified from every sin [the objective work of Christ is applied personally, that is, subjectively], a justification you could not obtain under the Law of Moses. [Acts 13:38-39]

But first, what is “faith”?  Faith is not simply knowing facts, such as knowing the facts about Jesus’ life and death.  It is trust in the promises and actions of God.

  • Proverbs 3:5: Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding.
  • Isaiah 28:16: Look, I have laid a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation: The one who trusts will be unshakable.

Faith lays hold of Christ’s completed work of salvation.  “The one who believes in him [Jesus] is not condemned” (John 3:18).  “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1).

Although our human reason and intellect try to understand faith (the intellectual grasping of the trust we have in Christ), faith itself is not the product of human reason, intellect, or decision.  Faith is a gift from God: “For you are saved by grace through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it [faith] is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

The Holy Spirit places the gift of faith within someone, without spiritual cooperation on the part of the person.

  • Ephesians 2:1, 5: As for you, you were once dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and its spiritual ruler…. Although we were dead in transgressions, God made us alive with Christ.  You are saved by grace!
  • Colossians 2:13: When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ and forgave us all our sins.

That’s why, even though we are physically alive and can do physical things, Jesus says, “No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3).  And the Apostle Paul teaches: “So then it does not depend on human will or effort but on God’s mercy” (Romans 9:16).

Jesus has objectively saved the world; subjective faith believes this truth and benefits from what Jesus has done for all.


Next Week: Paul will expound on how the objective nature of what Jesus did to save us becomes subjective to the person.


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