Romans - Lesson 23

Romans 5:12-21

In Romans 5:12-21, Paul elucidates the profound theological implications of sin and redemption through Christ. The passage navigates through contrasting statements employing "just as" and "how much more" constructions, highlighting the transformative power of Christ's grace. It emphasizes that while sin entered the world through Adam, Christ's righteousness and sacrifice bring justification and life to humanity. Through union with Christ, believers transcend the consequences of Adam's sin, securing hope and victory over death. Various interpretations of original sin are discussed, emphasizing the universality of human sinfulness and the need for redemption. Paul underscores the universality of sin and death, emphasizing the centrality of Christ in restoring humanity to God.

Lesson 23
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Romans 5:12-21

III. The Assurance Provided by the Gospel: The Hope of Salvation (5:1–8:39)

A. The Hope of Glory (5:1-21)

1. From Justification to Salvation (5:1-11)

2. The Reign of Grace and Life (5:12-21)

B. Freedom from Bondage to Sin (6:1-23)

1. "Dead to Sin" through Union with Christ (6:1-14)

2. Freed from Sin's Power to Serve Righteousness (6:15-23)

C. Freedom from Bondage to the Law (7:1-25)

1. Released from the Law, Joined to Christ (7:1-6)

2. The History and Experience of Jews under the Law (7:7-25)

a. The Coming of the Law (7:7-12)

b. Life under the Law (7:13-25)

D. Assurance of Eternal Life in the Spirit (8:1-30)

1. The Spirit of Life (8:1-13)

2. The Spirit of Adoption (8:14-17)

3. The Spirit of Glory (8:18-30)

E. The Believer's Security Celebrated (8:31-39)


  • This lesson offers a deep dive into Paul's Letter to the Romans, revealing its pastoral aims, Paul's intentions to visit Spain, Jerusalem, and Rome, and its relevance to early Christian dynamics and theological inquiries about the Law in Christ's time.
  • This lesson offers a fresh view of Paul's theology, focusing on Romans. It emphasizes the first-century context, highlighting Gentile inclusion and unity in Christ, challenging traditional views. Gain insights into Paul's message and its relevance today.
  • Explore the book of Romans for modern faith conflicts: balance tradition with contemporary practices, learn from history, and grasp Paul's ministry and Gospel's complexities.
  • Follow along with Dr. Moo as he begins a thorough review of Romans 1:2-5. You will learn how Paul emphasizes Jesus' earthly life, resurrection, and his appointment as the Son of God in power. This lesson examines the interconnectedness of faith and obedience, underscoring that while faith initiates salvation, genuine faith inherently entails obedience to Christ as Lord, maintaining a balanced Christian life.
  • By delving into Romans 1:16-17, you'll understand the Gospel extends beyond individual salvation, encompassing God's reign over creation and His establishment of justice. The Gospel challenges worldly powers, offering hope and transformation to all who embrace it.
  • Listen along as the class discusses questions and answers revolving around Romans 1:16-17.
  • In Romans 1:18-28, you learn that all people are held accountable by God, having knowledge of Him through natural revelation but some turn away. This passage highlights the manifestation of God's wrath against sin, the exchange of truth for falsehoods, and the absence of excuses for humanity's actions, ultimately emphasizing God's fair judgment.
  • Listen in as the class and Dr. Moo discuss aspects of Romans 1:18-28.
  • The lesson discusses Romans 2:1-11, it highlights the use of the diatribe device and the transition from focusing on Gentiles to Jews. It underscores the Jewish belief in their special status and their potential misunderstanding of God's judgment. The lesson reviews the focus of the text on key themes such as judgment, righteousness, and the relationship between faith and good deeds.
  • In this lesson, you'll review the significance of the Law, notably the Law of Moses, in God's judgment. Paul stresses that mere knowledge of the Law isn't sufficient for righteousness; obedience is key. The primary message is that salvation ultimately relies on God's grace and the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as human efforts and consciences alone cannot secure salvation. This lesson highlights the importance of understanding these concepts in interactions with people of different religious beliefs.
  • The key takeaway in this lesson is that while being a Jew comes with a great heritage, it doesn't guarantee salvation. Obedience to God's law is crucial, and reliance on religious heritage or rituals won't save you. The lesson emphasizes the universal human condition of being under the power of sin, and people cannot be declared righteous in God’s sight by observing the Law or by the works of the Law. Only through faith in Christ are we made righteous.
  • This lesson explores the New Perspective on Paul, emphasizing that the Law was for Jewish covenant status, not just salvation. It promotes a holistic faith view, balancing vertical and horizontal aspects, Spirit-led obedience, and 1st-century Judaism diversity, enriching Pauline teachings in the church.
  • In exploring Romans 3:21-26, you'll gain insights into the relationship between righteousness, faith, and salvation. Paul highlights God's righteousness, which is accessible to all through faith in Jesus Christ. By weaving together themes of righteousness, faith, and inclusivity, Paul challenges conventional Jewish and Gentile perspectives, emphasizing the continuity of God's salvation plan while underscoring the centrality of faith in Christ for all believers.
  • In this lesson, you will gain insights into the potential challenge in translating Romans 3:23-24, particularly the term "all" and its connection to the debate on universalism in evangelicalism. Dr. Moo stresses the importance of coherence in biblical interpretation and explores the themes of God's righteousness, faith, and grace in justification. The lesson reviews the cultural background of redemption, drawing parallels with the Greco-Roman slave market and emphasizing the need to understand both the problem of sin and the Gospel solution.
  • Embarking on this lesson, you'll gain insight into the historical development and contemporary challenges surrounding the doctrine of justification. Through exploring classic Reformation principles and contemporary reassessments, you'll understand the tensions between Protestant and Roman Catholic perspectives, particularly regarding the infusion of righteousness and the role of grace.
  • The lesson explores the intricate connection between faith and works, justification, and sanctification in contemporary theological discourse. It delineates divergent views on justification, with scholars like Piper advocating for the preservation of biblical distinctions amidst modern theological trends. The lesson examines key questions regarding the meaning, basis, time, and means of justification.
  • Students in Dr. Moo's class ask multiple questions about justification.
  • By studying Romans 3:27-4:25, you gain insight into Paul's theology, where faith, exemplified by Abraham's righteousness, transcends works and ethnicity, emphasizing the universal scope of salvation through Christ.
  • Hear the questions the students ask regarding Romans 3:27–4:25. And discover Dr. Moo's answers to the questions posed.
  • In Romans 5 – 8, you gain insights into profound theological concepts like justification, identity in Christ, and the tension between present reality and future hope, guiding you to embrace your changed identity and hope for future transformation amidst life's trials.
  • Students as deep questions about Romans 5-8. Hear what Dr. Moo presents as answers to their questions.
  • Through Romans 5:1-11, you'll review the contrast between the Old and New Realms, understanding the essence of living in grace, finding hope amid suffering, and experiencing the assurance of eternal security rooted in Christ's sacrifice and God's love poured into believers' hearts by the Holy Spirit.
  • In Romans 5:12-21, Paul contrasts Adam's sin with Christ's redemptive grace, emphasizing humanity's hope and victory over death through union with Christ, while various interpretations of original sin underscore the universal need for redemption and Christ's pivotal role in restoring humanity to God.
  • Listen to the thorough questions the students ask regarding Romans 5:12-21.
  • The students ask excellent questions of Dr. Moo in this insightful discussion on Romans 6:1-14.
  • Through this lesson, you will gain a deeper understanding of the theological implications of Christ's death and resurrection as explained in Romans 6. You will explore different interpretations of Paul's language regarding the old self and the new self, considering the implications for the Christian life. Ultimately, you will be challenged to recognize your identity in Christ and to actively live according to that identity, rejecting the slavery of sin and embracing servitude to God.
  • Hear the questions the students ask of Dr. Moo regarding Romans 6:1-23.
  • In diving into Romans 7, you'll explore the Law's role in Christian life. Paul's discourse clarifies the distinction between law and gospel, emphasizing the Torah's significance in understanding divine commandments.
  • Class discussion on Romans 7:1-6
  • In Romans 7:7-12, Paul explores the Law's role in intensifying sin and contrasts it with Christ's liberation. His narrative prompts reflection on individual experience and collective identity, enriching understanding of Christian faith.
  • The class discusses the previous lesson on Romans 7:7-12.
  • This lesson covers interpretations of Romans 7:13-25; whether Paul's description is of pre- or post-conversion struggle with the Law.
  • In Romans 8:1-22, discover the Spirit's transformative power over sin, leading to a life free from condemnation, intimacy with God, and anticipation of future glory amid present sufferings.
  • Explore the theological insights on environmental stewardship, emphasizing Christian responsibility in light of Romans 8:19-22.
  • Gain insights into Romans 8:23-27, understanding destined glory despite present suffering. The Spirit intercedes, bridging current and promised futures, offering assurance amid weakness.
  • Romans 8:28 offers profound insights into the nature of God's providence and the believer's journey of faith. Beyond its surface meaning, the verse challenges misconceptions about 'good' and underscores the transformative power of God's grace. It invites believers to trust in God's unfailing love amidst life's trials, anchoring their hope in the assurance of His sovereign care and redemptive purposes.
  • Romans 9:1-5 highlights Paul's profound concern for Israel's salvation and the theological complexities surrounding God's promises. Reviewing salvation history, you'll learn that God's offer of salvation for both Jew and Gentile, fits within the Old Testament narrative.
  • Paul discusses Israel's role in God's plan, emphasizing grace over race. He illustrates divine choices and sovereignty, sparking debates on salvation.
  • Discover diverse views on election, Israel's struggle with faith, and the significance of overcoming theological narrowness in Romans 9:30-10:21. Gain insights into law versus faith in attaining righteousness and the importance of engaging deeply with Scripture for a comprehensive understanding.
  • Gain insights into faith versus works, Christ as the culmination of the Law, and the inclusivity of righteousness through Him. Embrace unity in Christ, transcending cultural divisions, and embodying love and holiness.
  • Gain insight into contrasting righteousness by law vs. faith in Romans 10:5-13. Accessibility of salvation through Christ bridges Old and New Testament teachings, emphasizing unity and continuity.
  • Gain insights into Romans 10:14-21, emphasizing faith, preaching, and Israel's reception of the message. Dr. Moo highlights Paul's use of Old Testament quotes and God's ongoing relationship with Israel, revealing the significance of faith and salvation.
  • Gain insight into Romans 11:11-15. Paul discusses Jewish rejection, Gentile salvation, and Jewish inclusion, aiming to provoke Jewish envy. The phrase "life from the dead" hints at spiritual renewal or future resurrection.
  • Gain insights into the Olive Tree analogy in Romans 11:16-24. Understand humility, faithfulness, and the purpose of warning passages in Scripture.
  • Discover the mystery of Israel's salvation in Romans 11:25-32. Paul reveals unity of Jews and Gentiles, challenging arrogance and emphasizing God's inclusive love.
  • Gain deeper understanding of Christian-Jewish ties, navigate theological challenges, address Israel-Palestine tensions, and embrace God's inclusive grace.
  • Gain deep insights into Romans 12:1-2: True worship extends beyond rituals, urging sacrificial living and transformation in response to God's mercy.
  • In Romans 12:3-8, Paul stresses humility, unity, and diverse gifts within the body of Christ, urging faithful stewardship for the edification of the body of Christ.
  • Gain insights into love's complexity in Romans 12:9-21. Paul urges sincere affection, alludes to Jesus' teachings, and prompts contemplation on love and judgment.
  • Gain insights into balancing submission to authorities with obedience to God. Understand the context of Paul's exhortation to Roman Christians and the complexities of submission, emphasizing humility, unity, and love in the Christian life within God's sovereignty.

Dr. Douglas Moo, from Wheaton College Graduate School, offers an exegetical examination of the book of Romans. This course was recorded during a D.Min. seminar at the Carolina Graduate School of Divinity in May 2012.

Please note that the audio mp3 file numbers on downloaded files are two greater than each lecture number beginning with number 15.

Dr. Douglas Moo 
Romans 5:12-21  
Lesson Transcript


Romans 5:12-21

Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned— To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come. But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! Nor can the gift of God be compared with the result of one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ! Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous. The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.


A. Linking Words: Therefore, Just as, So Also, How Much More: 

We are at Romans 5:12-21; a really interesting passage for a lot of reasons. I think if you gave us a theological Rorschach test, most of us would hear Romans 5:12-21 and think, ah, original sin, that’s what’s going on here. It is arguably the most important passage in scripture about what we call original sin or original death, but in fact the main point of the passage is not about original sin or Adam. 

Let me talk about the passage as a whole first.  Let’s look at the “therefore" first in verse 12. We want to always pay attention to these connecting words that link passages of scripture together so we need to recognize the “therefore.” We also want to look at the way in which some of the key language of the passage is functioning. Sometimes when you come to a passage of scripture, you want to survey the passage and look at what some of the key, linking, connecting kinds of words are. 

So, in this passage, in verse 12, we have a just as construction and then at the end of the verse, most of our English Bibles, like my NIV, have a dash. That dash is there to indicate an incomplete sentence, in other words, Paul starts a sentence that he doesn’t finish. He says, just as and then of course you are waiting for the so also part, that’s how those sentences work. But Paul never comes to the so also part; he interrupts himself and moves into some other topic. But Paul realizes that he didn’t finish his idea and so in verses 18 and 19, he comes back to it again. Look at verse 18, just as trespass … condemnation, so also.  There we have the complete idea, just as, so also.

Verse 19, parallel in many ways, just as disobedience, one man, Adam, sin, , so also, on the other side, the obedience of the one man, Christ, and righteous.

Then we have it again in verse 21, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign. You get the just as and so also structure which is kind of the framework around which a lot of this passage is built. 

The point to make about that structure is this. That kind of sentence is one we use when we are trying to argue from something to something else. So around Chicago, for instance, it’s a very common thing to hear people say, just as the Chicago Cubs had another terrible baseball season, so also this coming season is going to work out the same way. You assume people know how bad a baseball team the Chicago Cubs are – that’s the just as part – and you’re predicting the future on the basis of that past – so also, they’re going to be bad this year again.  

What Paul is basically doing here is saying, just as Adam did these things and introduced sin and death into the world, in a sense he is saying all of you know that I’m not telling you anything new, the point I want to make is the so also side. Just as this happened on Adam’s side, so also now Christ, Himself has reversed that situation. It is the so also part that Paul is emphasizing. 

In other words, the point is that Romans 5:12-21 is fundamentally, in the argument of Romans, not about Adam or sin and death, it is about Christ and righteousness and life. It is designed then, it seems to me, to support the point Paul has been making in Romans 5:1-11. 

Putting it all together then, in a very simple overview of Romans 5: Christians can be confident of the glory of God because they belong to Christ who has won the victory, has introduced righteousness and life into the world that we enjoy because of our relationship to Christ. We have the hope of glory because we are no longer in Adam, we are in Christ, and Christ has won the victory. 

That leads us to the second kind of structural element that Paul uses, particularly in verses 15 – 17. Here you find the phrase how much more two or three times. Verse 15, ‘but the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died through the trespass of the one man, how much more did the God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man Jesus Christ overflow to the many!’ We have this again in verse 17, ‘if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through the one, how much more will those who receive the God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!’

So, we have the just as and so also where Paul is saying there is a comparison between Adam and Christ; they are functioning in similar ways. As Adam was the head of the human race, so Christ is the head of the new humanity. But then there is also the how much more. They can be compared in terms of their significance in human history; but Christ more than cancels out what Adam has done because on the side of Christ, there is grace and the power of God operating. All of which is intended to give us confidence for the future; to give us confidence that we who belong to Christ will achieve the glory, the ultimate salvation Paul is talking about.


B. Christ is in Control: 

You people are the ones who are experts at illustrating the text. I understand some of you especially are good at that. That is one of the reasons why I’m not a preacher; I am not very good at illustrations. I have two or three that I use on every possible occasion. Fortunately, I don’t preach in the same place very often so I can repeat the stories and get away with it.

One of the stories that I like to use in illustrating Romans 5:12-21 is a story about our children, Jonathan and David, when they were fairly young, maybe around 5 and 2, respectively. We went to an amusement park with them, and they had one of those typical kiddy rides with little cars and steering wheels attached, that go around on the track and the kids can pretend they are driving. 

So, Jonathan and David went into the car together and coming around the last curve, my wife and I looked at them and noticed something odd. David, our younger son, was sitting with his arms crossed with a mad, sad look on his face, didn’t seem to be enjoying himself at all. Whereas our older son, Jonathan, had his hands clamped to the steering wheel intently, looking at what was going on. He didn’t seem to be enjoying the ride very much either. They got off the cars, I asked them what the problem was, didn’t you enjoy the ride? David, our younger son spoke first, replied that Johnny wouldn’t let him drive. So, I ask Jonathan why he hadn’t let David drive. Dad, did you want us to end up in a ditch?!  

My poor older son, typical older child syndrome – all the responsibility on his shoulders – was certain that he was actually driving that car. The way he was steering that thing was going to mean whether they made it safely to the end of the road or not. Surely you couldn’t let someone as young as David have a hand in that!

The point, a lot of us think that it does depend upon us as we are looking for the glory that is yet to come in the Christian life. Paul’s point is that God has in a sense put you on a track toward that glory by His grace, by joining you to Jesus Christ; it is your union with Christ that is going to lead to that final benefit. You don’t have control of that; we don’t have to worry that we have to make all the perfect moves in the Christian life in order to get to that end God has destined for us. It is Christ whom God has appointed as the head of a new humanity in whom we are included by God’s grace. That is the basic teaching of the passage.


C. Different Theories regarding Original Sin and Death:  

Obviously, we do have to at least ask the question though about what we call original sin. When Paul talks about Adam and what Adam has done and the results of Adam’s sin, he suggests that there is some kind of impact of Adam’s sin on other people. Let’s look at what he says. 

Go back to verse 12, we have a chiastic structure here. Just as sin entered the world through one man and death came then because of that sin; so, the first part of verse 12 is talking about the entrance of sin into the world and with sin comes death. The second part of the verse reverses the terms; and death spread to all people because all people sinned.

Paul first establishes the general truth that is familiar from scripture: sin leads to death. He then says that in the same way that that has happened, death has come to all people because all people sin. There is a universal experience of death because there is a universal experience of sin. 

If we just stopped at verse 12, I don’t honestly think there would be too much controversy. When Paul uses the language of sin, clearly, he uses the language to talk about human beings committing sins in their own right, in their own persons, as it were. So, verse 12 of Romans 5 would simply mean that all people die because all people sin. Each of us is condemned to this death that Paul is talking about because each of us sins. 

But when we come down later in the passage when Paul repeats the idea, things become more complicated. In verse 18, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people. 

One way you can frame the matter is this: in verse 12, Paul says that we all die because we all sin. But in verse 18, he seems to be saying that all people die because one person sinned, Adam. So how do we relate those two statements? This is the kind of the question this passage poses to us. How do those two statements work together? Do I die because I sin, or did I die because Adam sinned? How do we explain the relationship? That’s where these various theories of what we call original sin come into play. 

I mention the first one, simply to dismiss it. The Pelagian View [Imitation View] has routinely been condemned in the history of the church as a sub-orthodox way of understanding the human condition partly because this idea of imitation simply can’t explain the universality of sin and death. Why do all humans imitate Adam? Why does each person follow the course Adam has taken? It seems very difficult to get to the universal experience of sin and death, unless there is something more than that going on. 

What I am calling the Infection View (please note my “I’s”; I’m trying to be homiletical for you a little bit) basically explains these statements in Romans 5 by throwing in a middle term in verse 18 that isn’t explicit. Condemnation comes to all people because of the one sin that led to corrupted human nature. So, the middle term here of Adam’s sin resulting in this bent to human beings, this tendency for all humans to turn away from God, that’s what leads all humans inevitably to sin and die. So, the way I phrase it here, all people sin and die because of Adam. 

The Inclusion View takes it a step further and says that we explain the relationship between verse 12 and verse 18 by thinking that the sin of verse 12 is the same as the sin of verse 18. This means that the sin of Adam has to have a representative significance. Adam’s one sin is at the same time the sin of every human being who is included in Adam. People give different explanations about how that particular mechanism of inclusion might work. I don’t think it’s important to go into those details here.

So, there have been some significant theological battles about some of these things over the centuries. I’m glad to discuss some of the matters with you. There are some different implications between these two views that have pastoral significance, for instance, which we can get into it if you want to. 

One of those has to do with how we understand – pastorally – the death of infants. Are infants those who are already under spiritual condemnation because they sinned as all human beings do with Adam? Or are infants, though inheriting a corrupt human nature, not yet themselves worthy of death because they have not committed a sin? If so, then, when do we experience the committing of an actual sin? What is the age of responsibility? When can we say that a person has actually committed a sin worthy of death for themselves. The difference between two and three does have implications for some of those kinds of specific matters. 

In general, though, I want to say that either view two or view three adequately explains Roman’s 5. I lean toward view three, myself, but either explains the passage. What is really important to understand is that there is a universality of both sin and death that we do need to maintain, that means that every human being is caught in this terrible dilemma of spiritual death from which they need to be rescued by Christ. 

Let me say one more thing and then see if you want to talk about this further. The death here is also an interesting question; we have not talked about specifically. In scripture we know that there is physical death, we’re all familiar with that of course. There is spiritual death which is separation from God that is the result of sin such as Adam and Eve experienced in the Garden. And there is an eternal death, the fate of human beings who never do turn to belief, and end up eternally dead, separated from God in that spiritual sense. 

It is not completely clear what the death Paul is talking about in this passage is. But the focus does seem to be on spiritual death and the parallels suggest this. The death of verse 12 becomes in verse 18, condemnation. So, it is probably spiritual death that Paul is talking about in basically in Romans 5:12-21. Spiritual death has its consequence in physical death; there is a relationship, but they are not in a one-to-one lock step relationship.