Romans 5:12-21




A federal head is a person who represents a group of people and whose actions result in consequences for those people.  The group experiences what their federal head’s actions deserve.  Examples of federal heads are kings, congressmen, parents, etc.


The discussion of sin in these verses deals with the sin nature that we inherited from Adam. 

We are called “sinners” because we have this sin nature. 

We then commit sins because we are sinners that have a sin nature.



Paul begins this section in this verse with a comparison that he does not finish until 5:18.

Paul becomes sidetracked from his comparison by Adam and sin.

(To start a comparison like this and then not finish it is what grammarians call an anacolouthon.)


one man” – Paul does not call them “Adam” and “Jesus” yet.  He refers to them as “one man” to stress the fact that they were the federal heads of groups.


death” refers to spiritual and physical death


Adam is credited with the sin and not Eve because Adam was the federal head of the race and Eve was not.  

·        Man was formed first (1 Timothy 2:13)

·        Eve was made as a “helper” which is ‘ezer and means “to help, to aid as one helps the destitute” and “giving to one who needs what they have.”  The NIV translates it as “helper suitable”(2:18) and “suitable helper” (2:20) because the word also means “corresponding needs and assets.”

·        Eve was brought to the man (2:22)

·        Adam named the animals and Adam named Eve “woman” (Ishshaw) (2:23)

·        Eve was taken out of man (2:23)

Eve did become a sinner when she ate according to 1 Timothy 2:14 – “It was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.”  “Sinner” (parabasei “transgression”) is the same word as Paul uses in Romans 5:14 (parpbasews “transgression”, NIV “breaking a command”.)  So Eve could sin but she did not have the authority for the whole human race.  (see also 2 Cor. 11:3)



Adam’s sin produced:

a)      universal sin nature

b)      universal sinning

c)      universal spiritual death

d)      universal physical death


“sin” in Romans does these things:

·        it reigns (5:20; 6:13, 14),

·        it can be obeyed (6:16-17),

·        it pays wages (6:23),

·        it seizes opportunity (7:8, 11)

·        it deceives and kills (7:11, 13)


The dash ( – ) at the end of verse 12 is the English Bibles way of recognizing that Paul has abandoned his sentence in verse 12 and begins to detail some statements he has made in verse 12.



Paul does not continue with the obvious conclusion of verse 12.

Since sin and death entered the world universally through one federal head then righteousness and life could also enter the world through one  federal head.

            But, Paul does not finish the comparison and so does not write this, yet.

            Paul will wait until verse 18.


Instead Paul wants to explain the concepts and connections of “sin” and “law” since both           of these have already been introduced in his book.


Verses 13 and 14 explain verse 12.


Paul begins verse 13 by stating a truth but a truth that doesn’t make sense if we only consider the Law of Moses.


Paul says, “Before the law was given, sin was in the world.”

So, what came first sin (and death) to man or the Law of Moses?  The answer: Sin


The question then is a Jewish question and is stated like this by Paul: “But sin is not taken into account when there is no law.” . . .??

Why was there death for all men before the Law of Moses was given?

How could people be guilty of breaking a law they did not know existed?

Why then did they die before God revealed the Law of Moses?


The answer to this question proves that Adam was the federal head of mankind.

The reason we sin and die is because of Adam!!

This is important and Paul is trying to stress the total power and authority that Adam had over us because it will help us understand the position that Christ has to the other extreme



Here is the answer to the question.

“Nevertheless” – Paul admits that you can not sin against a law that does not exist


Still, death reigned from Adam until Moses.

Why, because in Adam all became sinners and because all where sinners they died.


did not sin” – “sin” is “hamartano” and means “miss the mark”

by breaking a command” – is “parabasis” and means “the transgression of a command                      distinctly given. 


Adam did “sin” by breaking a known and revealed command.


Adam was a “pattern” of the one to come

Pattern” is “tupos”  which means a divinely instituted “type”, “pattern” or “shadow” of             a greater reality.


Adam’s act had universal impact as did Christ’s act.


1 Corinthians 15:45-49 – “So it is written: "The first man Adam became a living being"; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.”



The rest of Chapter 5 makes seven contrasts between Adam’s act and Jesus’ act.

There is one in each verse.


5:15 – The Essence: Transgression - Gift

5:16 – The Verdicts: Condemnation - Justification

5:17 – The Consequences: Death - Life

5:18 – The Extent: Condemnation for All Men - Justification for All Men

5:19 – The Issues: Many Declared to be Sinners and they began to Sin  -

                        Many Declared to be Righteous and they began to be Righteous

5:20- The Significance: The Law Showed the Significance (result, impact)  of Adams Sin -                                              Grace Shows the Significance (result, impact) of Christ’s Act

5:21 – The Dominions: Sin Reigning and Producing Death – Grace Reigning and                                              Producing Righteousness



5:15 – Isaiah 53:11, 12 – “will justify many” and “bore the sin of many

            Mark 10:45 – For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve,                                   and to give his life as a ransom for many.”


The repeated use of “grace” and “gift” indicate that Jesus did not simply restore us to     innocence but instead gives us much more that Adam lost.


The gift is not like the trespass.

One sin of Adam crashed everything.

One act of Jesus pays for all sins and brings us justification



One act of sin allowed death to reign in all men.

Now in Christ, his one act is also greater in this case.  Not only is the power of death                 broken but believers can reign in life.  This means:

a)      reign in time over sin and death

b)      reign in eternity with resurrection


“Justification that brings life for all men” is not universalism (teaching that all men are       automatically saved) because all men are already in Adam and they must choose             to be under a new federal head.

This verse is teaching as does the rest of scripture that there is “justification that brings    life for all men” who will believe.  If they refuse to receive Jesus as their new life       giving federal head they will remain under the condemnation from Adam that             came to all men.

Paul has already made it clear that men are justified by faith in Christ.

This is a case where a verse could be used to mean something that contradicts the rest of           the scripture. 

Scripture must be interpreted with scripture.

Based on scripture we have the right and the responsibility to understand this to refer to             all men having the opportunity if they respond with faith in Christ.



Christ’s obedience was on the cross.  This does not refer to his life of obedience.

“Made righteous” refers to justification but also the ultimate end of the believer will be a             righteous character.


Adam as an example begins to fade at this point.  Christ is the focus.

Adam was used to build a case to understand Christ.