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THE EPISTLE OF ROMANS - Part 8 of 15 – Romans 5:12- 21

Updated on December 27, 2014

Click here for the hub containing a link to the audio teachings for this series.

In the close of our study of Part 7 we saw that the emphasized point is our reconciliation to God by the death of his son. To reconcile is to eliminate all differences for the purpose of bringing two back into union. For Jesus Christ to reinstate our union with God we must have been in union with God at some point previously. God designed us as being in union with him according to Genesis 1:26-28. Adam disobeyed God’s direct command causing a separation for all of his progeny. God’s plan was to restore our relationship with him. One man separated us all from God. One man re-joins us to God.

Romans 5:12-21 comprises…

  • Two men: Adam & Jesus Christ
  • Two acts: Adam’s disobedience & Jesus Christ’s obedience
  • Two sets of results: Sin/death/condemnation & Righteousness/life/acquittal

Adam is the head of mankind physically as Jesus Christ is such spiritually. Adam began the physical human race as Jesus Christ began the spiritual human race. In Adam all are unified by blood. In Christ all are unified by the gift of holy spirit.

It is crucial for us to accept the realities of this section of scripture. All other perspectives leave each one of us as being the problem, that what we do or don’t do is where the problem and the solution reside. This is a blatant lie. Adam’s disobedience is the problem which has caused EVERY PROBLEM throughout mankind. Jesus Christ’s obedience is the solution. Acceptance of this truth is God’s repair program for EVERY erroneous trail of thoughts and actions in every one of us. Christ is the solution.

Spiritual enlightenment can only come from the God of our Lord Jesus Christ. He gives spiritual wisdom and revelation (Ephesians. 1:17). The book of Romans is God’s perspective. We look to him to acquire his perspective. Only he can reveal truth.

Romans 5:12-14 “Therefore, as through one man *sin entered into the world, and *death through sin; and so death passed unto all men, for that all sinned (in Adam):–– 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 them that had not sinned after the likeness of Adam’s transgression, who is a figure of him that was to come.” (ASV)

  • Therefore ties in this section with the previous point of reconciliation through the death of Jesus Christ.
  • Through one man is referring to Adam, emphasizing that it is not through many.
  • What is the origin of sin and death according to verse 12?
  • so death passed unto all men, for that all sinned (in Adam). Death is the absence of life, either physical or spiritual. Here it must be spiritual life that was lost because the context is reconciliation (5:10-11) and life in Christ (5:17-18).

Romans 5:12-21 declares the ways in which these two men (Adam & Jesus Christ), their acts and the results of their acts are compared and contrasted. The last phrase in verse 14 shows us that the two are compared, who (Adam) is a figure (likeness) of him that was to come.

The next three verses give us the contrasting points. The contrasts are underlined. The last four verses (Romans 5:18-21) give us points of comparison.

Romans 5:15-17 “But not as the trespass, so also [is] the free gift. For if by the trespass 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 unto the many. 16 And not asthrough one that sinned, [so] is the gift: for the judgment [came] of one unto condemnation, but the free gift [came] of many trespasses unto justification. 17 For if, by the trespass of the one, *death reigned through the one; much more shall they that receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one, [even] Jesus Christ.” (ASV)

Verse 15 The trespass doesn’t compare with the free gift.

  • much more means greater by far. Used 2x in these verses.
  • the gift is spoken of 5x in these three verses and in verse 17 it is referring to the gift of righteousness.
  • the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ This sets a standard for the use of the word “grace.” See also Romans 3:24, 5:2, 5:17, 5:20-21, 6:1, 6:14-15, 16:20, 16:24. All of these verses refer specifically to the grace that has abounded to us from/through Jesus as the Christ.
  • abound is to exceed a fixed amount.

Verse 16

  • Condemnation – See John 3:17-18 & 5:24.
  • Justification is the state, the position that we are now in.

Verse 17

  • death reigned we were governed by Godlessness.
  • receive is to take hold of.
  • reign in life Reign as kings in the fullness of life that is through Jesus Christ.

A paraphrase of this section can read as such: The trespass does not compare with the free gift. On the one hand, through the one trespass of Adam life with God ceased for all of Adam’s progeny, we were governed by this absence of life and we were unified with Adam in his condemnation. These effects were passed on to all of mankind. On the other hand, far greater are the effects of the free gift that is through Jesus Christ. The many trespasses came to a verdict of justification through him. Those who take hold of the abundance of the grace that is in Christ Jesus and of the gift of righteousness reign as kings in the fullness of life that is through him.

The last four verses of this section give us comparisons between Adam and Jesus Christ.

Romans 5:18-21 “So then as through one trespass [the judgment came] unto all men to condemnation; even so through one act of righteousness [the free gift came] unto all men to justification of life. 19 For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the one shall the many be made righteous. 20 And the law came in besides, that the trespass might abound; but where sin abounded, grace did abound more exceedingly: 21 that, as sin reigned in death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (ASV)

Verse 18

  • So then is like saying, In conclusion.
  • justification of (to) life can be translated as “life-giving justification” (HCSB), or as “righteousness that brings life” (WTNT), or as “life-giving acquittal” (WEY) See Galatians 3:21.

Verse 19

  • made sinners means caused to be in the state of being under the power of sin, and therefore, producing sins.
  • made righteous means caused to be in the state of being in right standing with God and his perfect standard, which when yielded to produces holiness in our manner of life.

Verse 20

  • “The law came along to multiply the trespass. But where sin multiplied, grace multiplied even more,” (HCSB) Herein lies a principle of the grace that is toward us through Jesus Christ: to whatever level sin rises, this grace rises higher. There is no sin, or fault, or frailty of mankind, etc. that wasn’t superseded by the grace that is in Christ Jesus. One payment covered all.
  • The Law of Moses never was intended by God to make us righteous and therefore give us life with him. We will take time to see this in the next two chapters of Romans.

Verse 21

  • as sin reigned in death To reign is to govern as a king. To what degree did sin govern us when we were apart from Christ? Sin completely governed us (Ephesians 2:1-3, 4:17-19, Romans 3:9-19, 5:6-10a)
  • even so might grace reign through righteousness In the same manner might the grace that is in Christ Jesus governs us through our right standing with God
  • unto eternal life Eternal life begins for us at the moment we become born again, not when the Lord Jesus Christ returns. That kind of life which is eternal.
  • through Jesus Christ our Lord He is the only means by which we enter all this grace. We are NOT the means of the grace, otherwise grace would be called works.


  • By birth we entered into the realm of the results of Adam, and so by birth, into the realm of Christ. See verse 19.
  • the trespass is used 5x in verses 12-21. The one trespass is the problem, not you.
  • One is used 12 X in this section. Repetition of the same word or words in scripture is used for emphasis. What is being emphasized? According to E. W. Bullinger in Number in Scripture, “One denotes unity, or united.” “One excludes all differences, for there is no second with which it can either harmonize or conflict.” Adam is the “one” with whom all who are born in his likeness are unified. Jesus Christ is the “one” with whom all who are born in his likeness are unified. How we are unified with each of them is outlined in verses 12-21. In Adam we were one in sin, death, death reigning, condemnation, and in being sinners. In Jesus Christ we are one in righteousness, grace, justification, reigning in life, acquittal to life, and grace reigning.

Our relation to God as righteous ones has been reinstated by Jesus Christ our propitiation. Acceptance of this most basic truth is how we reign as kings in all of life. This is God’s intended purpose for mankind: to reign in life through our Lord Jesus Christ.


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