New Rom. 5:12-21
This is the most difficult and controversial passages of all of Paul’s writings. He has argued in 5:1-11 that the hope of believers is assured by virtue of Christ’s work on the cross, and in v. 12-21 he contemplates how sin and death (certain to kill hope and assurance!) entered into the world through the 1st Adam and has been conquered through the 2nd Adam.
I. Entrance of Sin into the World through Adam (12-14)
12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—
13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law.
14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.
If there is no transgression apart from the Law (4:15), then it would follow that those who lived in the period between Adam and Moses could not die for their own sin. Paul argues, however, that the reign of death over all reveals the existence of sin during this period of time, even though those people’s sin was distinct from Adam’s in that Adam violated a revealed commandment from God. The presence of death is evidence of sin.
This is corporate headship in Adam, but Adam is the pattern of Jesus and what he has accomplished.
II. Comparison of the Work of Christ and Adam (15-17)
15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.
16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification.
17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.
18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.
19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.
III. The Role of the Law in History (20-21)
20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,
21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
The Jews held that the law was meant to restrain sin, but Paul teaches that the Law was to reveal sin.