Understanding Romans 5:12-21
Many people do not understand this portion of Scripture and so they run off with erroneous beliefs derived from the passage.
But this passage is the summary of the whole Bible! Unless one understands this passage, he cannot understand the Bible nor the gospel.
Unlearned and unstable people tend to twist this passage of Scripture to their own ruin as they also do to other parts of Scripture. 2 Pet. 3 :16
Rom. 5: 12. By one man sin entered into the world. Death entered by sin. Death passed upon all men, implying that all have sinned.
KJV Translators Note on verse 12 reads “in whom all have sinned”.
Jubilee version reads: “…and so death passed upon all men in the one in whom all sinned”
Living Oracle New Testament reads: “Wherefore, as sin entered into the world by one man, in whom all sinned, and by sin, death…”
Douay-Rheims version reads: “…So death passed upon all men, in whom all have sinned”
Verse 12 actually teaches that it was through one man’s sin that death entered the world. It says that the sin of one man brought death to all beings.
The verse says that since all men die, it implies that all sinned.
In other words, the sin of the one man that brought death is the sin of all men otherwise death would not have passed upon all men.
The verse says that “all have sinned”. It does not say that all sin. It says all sinned. That means it’s a completed act. All sinned or all have sinned means that even the unborn have already sinned.
So, the verse establishes that Adam’s sin was imputed to all men.
The proof of this statement is that all men die. Death is solely the reward of sin. Unborn babies have no sin of their own neither do plants and animals. But babies, plants and animals die. Why? The answer is in this verse, “in him all sinned”.
If death was the consequence of one’s personal sins, babies and animals wouldn’t die.
Ps. 51: 5 “…in sin did my mother conceive me” was not David’s personal experience but the universal experience of all flesh after the sin of Adam for who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? No one! Job 14: 4
Since Adam became a sinner by disobedience or unbelief, it is not possible for him to bring forth offsprings that are righteous.
So, everyone born through a male sperm is as sinful as Adam. Adam’s sin was imputed to all men.
“…we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles…are all under sin. As it written: There is none righteous, no not one…. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God…” Rom. 3: 9, 10, 23
So, all men are born sinners. All men need redemption and righteousness. No man is born righteous only to loose his righteousness later through unbelief. No!
Rather, all are born sinners and need righteousness!
Verse 13 says that sin was in the world before the Law. But sin is not imputed where there is no law.
Which law is this verse referring to? The Law of Moses. There was sin in the world before the Law of Moses was given. But God didn’t count those sins against the people because he had not given them any law by which they could be judged right or wrong.
Sin is disobedience to God’s Commandment. So, there must be a commandment before sin can imputed.
Why did Paul make this statement and what is the relevance of verse 13 to the subject matter of the whole passage? Verse 14 explains the essence of verse 13.
Verse 14 says nevertheless death reigned from Adam (the first man who committed sin by disobeying the only commandment God gave to him) to Moses (who gave the Law). Death reigned even over those who did not sin by disobeying any given commandment like Adam did. They died without disobeying any commandment (no commandment was given to them, so sin could not have been imputed to them).
But that is not supposed to be because death is the wages of sin. Sin is the transgression of a commandment. No commandment was given to them and the Law of Moses had not been given. So, they could not have been called sinners on account of their personal sins. How come that death still reigned over them?
The answer is in verse 12: Death could only have reigned over them not because of their personal sins (since they had no Law to break) but because of Adam’s sin.
Adam’s sin was imputed to all men. So, all men have sinned (completed act). All men were sentenced to death in Adam. The whole creation was made subject to corruption by the sin of Adam. Rom.8: 20
This agrees with 1Cor. 15: 22 “…in Adam all die… ”
If death is the wages of sin, and all die in Adam, then it means all sinned in Adam. All cannot die in Adam except all sinned in Adam.
Rom. 5: 18 says that by the offence of one man judgement came upon all men to condemnation.
The condemnation upon all men referred to in this verse is death. So, death came upon all men, babies, plants and animals not because of their personal sins but for the sin of Adam.
The conclusion is that the sin of Adam was imputed to all men and that is the reason why all men die including those who have no personal sins.
Rom. 5: 16-21 continues with the logic. The passage explains that since the sin of one man was imputed to all men resulting in the death of all, then the righteousness of one man can be justifiably imputed to all men resulting in everlasting life.
All men are identified in either the first man, Adam (old creation, old man or sin) or in the last man, Christ (new creation, new man or righteousness).
All men born through the male seed are included in Adam by birth.
Ps. 58: 3 “These wicked people are born sinners; even from birth they have lied and gone their own way” NLT
All men are wicked or sinful from the womb.
God sent another man to pay the price for the sin of the first man. Christ Jesus died for the sin of the whole world. So, the sin of Adam has been paid for in full. The wages of Adam’s sin is death. Jesus was not born through the seed of Adam. So, Adam’s sin was not imputed to him at birth. He was born righteous and was qualified to be a sacrifice for sin.
God gave him as a just sacrifice for the sin of Adam. He has paid the price for sin in full. 1Cor. 15: 3
Now, any one who wishes to live for ever, that is, any man in Adam who wishes to become righteous and live forever in paradise, only has to believe that Jesus died for man’s sins and that God raised him from the dead.
Once, he believes that, God forgives his sins including the sin he inherited from Adam and imputes the righteousness of Christ to him. He becomes as righteous as Jesus just like he was as sinful as Adam at birth.
Such a person from the moment of believing is identified in Christ. He is no more in Adam but in Christ.
“If any man is in Christ, he is a new creation… “2 Cor.5: 17
In Christ one is no more part of the Old Creation, he is no more a sinner and he will not perish or die eternally. In Christ he is a new creation, the righteousness of God and will live forever in the New Earth.
It’s a matter of choice. Those who wrest this scripture to say that they are automatically righteous and saved because they were automatically made sinners from birth are self deceived.
The scriptures are clear that one must believe in Christ Jesus to be saved. One is only included in Christ when he believes. We are never automatically included in Christ.
“And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit” Eph. 1: 13 NIV
Everyone will not be saved. Only those who believe are included in Christ and shall be saved.
If the death of Christ automatically made everyone saved and righteous there would have been no need for the command:
“Go, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believes and is baptized shall be saved and he that believes not shall be damned” Mk. 16: 15, 16
Salvation is not automatic upon the death of Christ. Salvation is a choice. Only those who desire to live forever and show their desire by believing in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are saved. Rom. 2: 7
Those who die as children or babies and those who had no opportunity to hear the gospel will be raised in the second resurrection. Rev. 20: 11, 12
Dead children and babies will have everlasting life but they will not reign in the millennial Kingdom.
Adults who die without hearing the gospel will be judged based on their conscience. Rom. 2: 12-16
Some of them will also be allowed to live forever but they will not be in the millennial Kingdom. Rev. 20: 4-6, 11-15