Christ, The Second Adam
Sin & Death Through Adam
In a Brief Survey of the Epistle of Paul to the Romans
Based on sermons preached in PCC Worship Services, July 2003 to Sep 2005
Part 23a of 83

“…15 But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. …” (Romans 5:12-21).

We are doing a brief study of the book of Romans. The central theme of the book is the doctrine of justification. The doctrine of justification teaches us that the ground of man’s acceptance with God is not in himself, but in Christ alone.

The apostle Paul does not feel ashamed to repeat this fact over and over again. Even after he has completed his formal presentation of the doctrine of justification, he continues to repeat it. We saw how Paul completed his formal presentation of the doctrine of justification in chapter 4. In chapter 5, he has begun to describe the effects and blessings of justification. But even as he does this, he does not cease to repeat over and over again that everything that we enjoy is founded in Christ alone. Consider:

·     v. 1: “…we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…”

·     v. 2: “…by whom also we have access by faith into this grace…”

·     v. 6: “…Christ died for the ungodly.”

·     v. 8:  “...Christ died for us.”

·     v. 9:  “...being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him"

·     v. 10: “...we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son…"

·     v. 10: “…we shall be saved by His life."

·     v. 11: “...we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ,

·     v. 11: “…by whom we have now received the atonement.”

What do these repeated references to Christ tell us? Surely it tells us of the centrality of Christ in the Christian life. Apart from Christ, we are dead, guilty, ungodly, graceless, helpless, joyless, hopeless, enemies of God and children of wrath. The Christian life is a life of union with Christ. We are saved in Christ. We are saved on account of our identification with Christ. We abound because of Christ. Elsewhere Paul says: “For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God” (Col 3:3). Our old life is dead. We have a new life in Christ.

But now we come to verse 12. From this verse all the way to the end of the chapter is a very important passage. Most commentators believe that this passage is a kind of excursus to the main flow of Paul’s discussion. I believe this is right. Paul has been talking about the benefits and effects of justification, but now he is taking a break to add another piece of the puzzle in the doctrine of justification. He will resume talking about the benefits and effects of justification in chapter 6. But for now, he is going back to show us an important aspect of the doctrine of justification.

But be as that may be the case, let us be clear that what he is going to say is not totally unrelated to the verses preceding. Verse 12 begins with the word “wherefore.” Why does Paul begin with the word “wherefore”? Paul, you must remember is writing under inspiration. Every word is carefully chosen and inspired by the Holy Spirit. If verses 12-21 are unrelated to the previous verses, the word “wherefore” would be meaningless.

Why then does Paul use the word “wherefore”? He uses it because he is about to show us that our abounding in Christ has its parallel in mankind’s destitution in Adam. You see, Paul has been speaking about our life in Christ. As Christian we live our life on the basis of what Christ has done and is doing. God deals with us not on our merits but on the merits of Christ.

But this may seem like a rather strange doctrine for many. Paul is therefore taking a step back to show that this is not a new doctrine. The fact is, God has always dealt with us according to this principle of representation. All believers are represented by Christ, just as all men are by nature represented by Adam.

You will be able to see this comparison clearly if you read our text without the verses in parenthesis from verse 13-17. Listen to our text without the parenthesis—

12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:…

18 Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. 19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.

This then is what our text is about. It is about mankind dying in Adam and the church living in Christ. But our text is extremely rich theologically. We may spend many months on it and we would not be able to exhaust it. Dr Martin Lloyld-Jones has 14 sermons on this passage, including one just on the word “wherefore.” We are however doing a survey of this book, and so we are going to do only a couple of sermons on it.

Briefly, then, the apostle wants us to know 4 things from this passage. Firstly, he would have us know that Adam is mankind’s representative unto Sin and Death. Secondly, he would have us know that Christ is our representative unto Righteousness and Life. Thirdly, he would have us know how Adam highlights the greatness of Christ. And Fourthly, he would have us know that the Law also highlights the grace of Christ.

Let’s consider just the first 3 points in this tranche of articles. We will enlarge on the fourth point in our next tranche.

1.  Adam Represents Mankind unto Sin and Death

a.   Paul says:

12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:

Who is this one man? It is Adam. Who is Adam? He was the first man whom God created. All mankind descended from him. He was the first man to exist. Therefore he was divinely appointed as the representative of all mankind. Just as the president of Singapore represents the nation of Singapore, so Adam represented the federation of all mankind. Just as our president can bring our nation into war or friendship with another nation; so Adam could bring all mankind who would descend from him into war or friendship with God. When our president deals with another nation, he is not looked upon as a private person, but as the head of state. So also, when Adam dealt with God, he was not looked upon as a private person, but as the head of mankind.[1]

Now, when God had created Adam, He commanded him not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. There was nothing poisonous about that tree. But God had commanded him not to eat of it, on the pains of death. “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” says the LORD (Gen 2:17). The punishment for sin was death. It would be a physical, spiritual and eternal death.

b.  But not too long after that, God made Eve as a helpmeet for Adam. And Satan tempted Eve to eat of the forbidden fruit. Eve ate, and she “gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat” (Gen 3:6).

Adam disobeyed God. He sinned against God. But Adam was no ordinary person. He was head of the human federation. So when he sinned, “sin entered into the world.” And as the wages or punishment of sin is death, “death passed upon all men.”

“Death passed upon all men,” says Paul, “for that all have sinned” (v. 12). Now, there are a few different interpretations to this phrase. Some say that death passed upon all men in that Adam became an example to all men. All men descending from Adam imitated him in sin and they too died.

But this surely was not what Paul had in mind. He says, “for that all have sinned” not “for that all began to sin.”

What Paul is saying, rather, is that all mankind became sinners in Adam, and became guilty of death in Adam. Why did this happen? It happened because Adam was our representative. So when Adam sinned against God, he involved all mankind in a war against God. All man is regarded as guilty before God because of Adam’s sin. Or in other words, Adam’s guilt was imputed to all man.[i] Adam was the gang-leader. When he rebelled against God, all mankind became God’s enemies.

All men die because all men are regarded as sinners on account of Adam’s sin. But is this a doctrine invented by Paul? No, no; if you would learn anything about biblical theology, you must realise that the writers of the New Testament would not invent anything new. The New Testament does not introduce any major doctrine that is not found in the Old Testament. Sometimes it makes Old Testament doctrine clearer, but it does not introduce anything completely new.

This doctrine of God’s dealing with all mankind on account of Adam’s Fall is a major doctrine. And it sounds new. Could Paul have invented it? Well, if he did, he would not have a hearing amongst the Jewish converts who have too great a respect for the Scriptures than to entertain anything that cannot be proven by it.

This is why Paul pauses for a while to show that it is a doctrine that has always been in the Scriptures. Look at verse 13-14—

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 to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.

What is Paul doing? He is basically showing that unless the covenantal headship of Adam is presupposed, it is impossible for us to justify the universality of death between Adam and Moses.

The written law was given only at the time of Moses. The written law tells us not only what duty God requires of man, but what the punishment for failure is. “For where no law is, there is no transgression” says Paul in chapter 4 (Rom 4:15). Now, since the law was only given at the time of Moses, no one would have been punished for any specific trespass of the Law. But many people between Adam and Moses died. How can their death be explained? Before Moses, there are only two clear statements of death as a punishment for sin. The first is in Genesis 2 where God warned Adam that he would die if he ate of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The second is in Genesis 9, where God warned that murderers must die. Notice that God did not execute Cain because the specific penal sanction for murder came only later.

There were no other laws requiring death until Moses. And yet death reigned from Adam to Moses. Everyone died. Yet apart from Adam and Eve, none of those who died ate of the forbidden fruit. It is true that some could have committed murder after the flood, but the vast majority died though they did not break any law that has death stipulated as a penalty. They did not sin after the manner of Adam. They did not sin a sin that carried the death penalty. How then do you explain their death?

Paul’s answer is that all men sinned in Adam and died, because Adam’s guilt was imputed on them. All men die because we are regarded as guilty in Adam.

c.   All the sufferings of this world. All the sin and deaths of this world can be traced to Adam. Adam was our covenant representative and our forefather. He involved all men descending from him by natural generation into sin and death.

Now, we must not push all blame to Adam for the sinful condition we live in; for we actually sin ourselves too. We inherited Adam’s sinful nature. But what Paul is teaching us explains why death pervades the entire humankind. Even infants who have not seen day-light and had no opportunity to sin actually, —in words, deeds and thoughts,— die. Why? Because all mankind is guilty in God’s eyes! There is none righteous, no not one. For we have all sinned and come short of the glory of God (Rom 3:10, 23). There is no such thing as an innocent child.

We sin because we are sinners. We do not become sinners because we sin. We are sinners because we are imputed with Adam’s guilt. We are sinners also because we inherited Adam’s sin nature. This is why we do not need to teach our children how to sin. They know how to sin from the moment they are born. Which parent will teach their children to be obedient, to throw tantrum or to tell lies? Surely none! Yet they do all these. Why? Because they are born as sinners! They have Adam’s sin nature.

Some years ago a ministerial friend, Rev. Maurice Roberts asked the daughter of another minister, Pastor Sherwood: “Are you good, bad or half-good, half-bad?” What was her reply? “Good.” Pastor Sherwood was quite embarrassed. A couple of years later, he decided to try the same question on my children. It was my turn to be embarrassed. They said “half-good, half-bad”? His daughter was Pelagian, mine were semi-Pelagian! I am not really sure which is better.

No, no; all our children are by nature bad. All are bad because Adam sinned. This is why we need the Lord Jesus Christ. If any of us are good, we can go to heaven without Christ.

But no, we are all wicked, evil and bad by nature. We are sinners in God’s eyes because our first father sinned. This doctrine is a very humbling one, is it not? Nothing that we do by nature can please God. We all deserve God’s wrath.

But thank God that He did not leave us to perish. For “Adam was a figure of him that was to come” (v. 14). As Adam involved all men in sin and death, so Christ, the second Adam involved His Church in righteousness and life.

…to be Continued Next Issue

—JJ Lim



[1] He is the representative of all mankind descending from him by ordinary generation in the Covenant of Works or Covenant of Life (cf. WSC 12).



[i] But secondly, Adam was our first father. We were therefore seminally present in Adam when Adam sinned. In Hebrews 7, we are told that the Melchizedic Priesthood is greater than the Levitical priesthood because Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek. The argument is that Levi was in Abraham’s loins when he paid tithes to Melchizedek. That is Levi was seminal present in Abraham, and so Levi paid tithes to Melchizedek. And therefore the priesthood of Melchizedek is greater than the priesthood of Levi. Now, just as Levi was seminally present in Abraham, we were seminally present in Adam. So when Adam sinned, we sinned too.