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Sin Entered The World Through One Man

Pastor Bill Farrow

Romans 5:12a

12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned…

Therefore (translated “wherefore” in the KJV) connects what follows with what has just been declared, namely, that as believers we have been reconciled to God by the sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ (vv. 8-11). Now Paul begins the great analogy of Christ with Adam, the common principle being that, in each case, a far-reaching effect on countless others was generated through one man.

Just as - This is the form of a comparison. But the other part of the comparison’s deferred to Rom. 5:18. The connection evidently requires us to understand the other part of the comparison of the work of Christ. In the rapid train of ideas in the mind of the apostle, this was deferred to make room for explanations Rom. 5:13-17. “As by one man sin entered into the world, etc., so by the work of Christ a remedy has been provided, commensurate with the evils. As the sin of one man had such an influence, so the work of the Redeemer has an influence to meet and to counteract those evils.” The passage in Rom. 5:13-17 is therefore to be regarded as a parenthesis thrown in for the purpose of making explanations, and to show how the cases of Adam and of Christ differed from each other.

In the case of Adam, it was through one man that sin entered into the world. It is important to note that Paul does not say that sin originated with Adam but only that sin in the world, that is, in the human realm, began with Adam. Sin originated with Satan, who “has sinned from the beginning” (1 John 3:8). John does not specify when that beginning was, but it obviously was before the creation of Adam and Eve, because they were tempted by Satan.  It is, in fact, interesting that Adam was not even the first human to sin – that dubious distinction fell to Eve who heeded what the serpent had to say and ate of the forbidden fruit.  Sin did not enter the world, in any official or imputed sense, until Adam, acting for the race a federal or representative head, sinned.

After He placed Adam in the Garden of Eden, “the Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die’” (Gen. 2:15-17). Adam was given but one, simple prohibition by God, yet the consequence for disobedience of that prohibition was severe.

After Eve was created from Adam and joined him in the garden as his wife and helper, Satan tempted her to doubt and to disobey the command of God. She, in turn, induced her husband to disobey, and they sinned together. But although Eve disobeyed first, the primary responsibility for the sin was Adam’s, first of all because it was to him that God had directly given the command, and second because he had headship over Eve and should have insisted on their mutual obedience to God rather than allow her to lead him into disobedience.

The one command was the only point of submission to God required of Adam. Except for that single restriction, Adam had been given authority to subjugate and rule the entire earth (Gen. 1:26-30). But when Adam disobeyed God, sin entered into his life and generated a constitutional change in his nature, from innocence to sinfulness, an innate sinfulness that would be transmitted to every one of his descendants.

Paul’s argument begins with the assertion that, through Adam, sin entered into the world. He does not speak of sins, plural, but of sin, singular. In this sense, sin does not represent a particular unrighteous act but rather the inherent propensity to unrighteousness. It was not the many other sinful acts that Adam eventually committed, but the indwelling sin nature that he came to possess because of his first disobedience, that he passed on to his posterity. Just as Adam bequeathed his physical nature to his posterity, he also bequeathed to them his spiritual nature, which henceforth was characterized and dominated by sin.

Adam was the first sinner of the race. The word “sin” here evidently means the violation of the Law of God. He was the first sinner among people, and in consequence all others became sinners. The apostle does not here refer to Satan, the tempter, though he was the suggester of evil; for his design was to discuss the effect of the plan of salvation in meeting the sins and calamities of our race. This design, therefore, did not require him to introduce the sin of another order of beings. He says, therefore, that Adam was the first sinner of the race, and that death was the consequence.

Into the world - Among mankind; (John 1:10; 3:16-17). The term “world” is often thus used to denote human beings, the race, the human family. The apostle here evidently is not discussing the doctrine of original sin, but he is stating a simple fact, intelligible to all: “The first man violated the Law of God, and, in this way, sin was introduced among human beings.” In this fact - this general, simple declaration - there is no mystery.

 

God made men a procreative race, and when they procreate they pass on to their children, and to their children’s children, their own nature - physical, psychological, and spiritual.

John Donne wrote these well-known lines in his Meditation XVII,

No man is an Island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.

Mankind is a single entity, constituting a divinely ordered solidarity. Adam represented the entire human race that descended from him, no matter how many subgroups there may be. Therefore when Adam sinned, all mankind sinned, and because his first sin transformed his inner nature, that now depraved nature was also transmitted to his posterity. Because he became spiritually polluted, all his descendants would be polluted in the same way. That pollution has, in fact, accumulated and intensified throughout the ages of human history. Instead of evolving, as humanists insist, man has devolved, degenerating into greater and greater sinfulness.

Ancient Jews understood well the idea of corporate identity. They never thought of themselves as isolated personalities or as a mass of separate individuals who happened to have the same bloodline as their families and fellow Jews. They looked at all other races in the same way. A given Canaanite or Edomite or Egyptian was inextricably connected to all others of his race. What one of them did affected all the others, and what the others did affected him - in a way that is difficult for modern, individual-oriented man to comprehend.

It was on that basis that God frequently punished or blessed an entire tribe, city or nation because of what a few or even just one, of its members did. It was in light of that principle that Abraham asked the Lord to spare Sodom if only a few righteous people could be found there (Gen. 18:22-33). It was also on the basis of that principle that God held all Israel accountable and eventually destroyed Achan’s family along with him because of that one man’s disobedience in keeping for himself some of the booty from Jericho (see Josh. 7:1-26).

The writer of Hebrews knew that his Jewish readers would understand his statement about the tithes that Levi paid to Melchizedek. “Without any dispute,” he declared, “the lesser is blessed by the greater. And in this case mortal men receive tithes, but in that case one receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives on. And, so to speak, through Abraham even Levi, who received tithes, paid tithes, for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him” (Heb. 7:7-10; cf. vv. 1-3; Gen. 14:18-20). In other words, although Melchizedek lived many years before Levi, the father of the priestly tribe, was born, along with all other descendants of Abraham, Levi, by being in the seed in Abraham’s loins, shared in the tithe paid to the ancient king.

In the same way, although with enormously greater consequences, the sin of Adam was passed on to all of his descendants. When he sinned in the Garden of Eden, he sinned not only as a man but as man. When he and his wife, who were one flesh (Gen. 2:24), sinned against God, all of their descendants - that is, the entire human race in their loins - would share in that sin and the alienation from God and subjection to death that were its consequence. “In Adam all die,” Paul explained to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 15:22). As far as guilt is concerned, every human being was present in the garden with Adam and shares in the sin he committed there.

The fact that Adam and Eve not only were actual historical figures but were the original human beings from whom all others have descended is absolutely critical to Paul’s argument here and is critical to the efficacy of the gospel of Jesus Christ. If a historical Adam did not represent all mankind in sinfulness, a historical Christ could not represent all mankind in righteousness. If all men did not fall with the first Adam, all men could not be saved by Christ, the second and last Adam (see 1 Cor. 15:20-22, 45).