Meditations on Romans 5:12–14

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Unfortunately, none of us came into the world in a state of moral neutrality. We were not born innocent but were already deserving of death even at birth. This is because, since the fall the naturally-conceived-and-born descendants of Adam are with no exception legally guilty of sin and subject to its damning consequences. If this were not so, that is, if we were legally neutral before God, we would not need a Savior!

When Paul says all have sinned (v. 12), he is not necessarily speaking of the personal sins we have committed on our own. Though all of us certainly, have many personal and individual violations of God’s law on our records. Instead, he is saying that we all bear the guilt of Adam by imputation. The “one trespass” of Adam had “led to condemnation for all men” (v. 18), in fact, “In Adam all die” (1 Cor. 15:22). That is, even before we ever sinned in such an individualized way, we were all guilty before God. The guilt of sins unique to us is secondary—in a sense—to Adam’s guilt that we all possess by attribution, for we can and do die—and death is the wages of sin—even before we commit sins that are exclusively our own.SinOfAdam

Paul focuses on the primacy of Adam’s guilt and sin, imputed and ascribed to us at natural birth in Romans 5:12–14; when he says that people die even though sin is not committed and counted where there is no law (that is, the Mosaic Law). “But death reigned from Adam until Moses, even upon those who had not sinned in the likeness of Adam’s transgression” (vs. 14), although man could not COMMIT sin—technically—before the introduction of the law because there was no law to break, mankind continued to suffer the consequences of sin which is death.

From this, it is clear that sin is in reality not the breaking of the law but the natural condition of the fallen man which is perpetually being “short of God’s glory” (Romans 3:23) because we are born of Adam.