God's gift: Jesus Christ. 5:12-17


In chapter 5:12-21 Paul explains how Christ's saving death has affected all humanity. Paul does this by comparing the saving work of Christ with the condemning work of Adam. He begins this comparison in v12, but then in v13-17 he qualifies it. Finally, in v18, he makes the comparison, repeats it in v19, and then in v20-21 notes the part the law plays. In our passage for study, Paul explains that Adam's one sin has brought death to the whole human race, v12-14, and then, before going on with his comparison, he explains how the work of Adam and Christ is dissimilar, v15-17. Christ's work is dissimilar to Adam's in that his work did much more for humanity than just remove the stain of Adam's one sin. Christ's work removes the stain of all sin, achieving an eternal right-standing before God for all who believe.

The passage

v12. Paul, in this verse, begins to make a comparison between the universal effect of Adam's sinful deed and the universal effect of Christ's righteous deed, but he stops to qualify the comparison before going on with it. His point is that Adam's sin has infected the whole human race and as a result, death has gained control. So, death reaches all people, not only because of Adam's sin, but because of the contribution of the sin of each individual. Death is the consequence of human sin - Adam's primal sin plus our own.

v13-14. These verses answer a question arising from v12. How is it possible for all to sin at a time when there was no law? Sin was in the world even before the Law was given by God through Moses, although without the law, sin is not easily seen for what it is (ie. it is not as clearly defined). As a result of sin's presence, death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sin was not like Adam's, ie. not the breaking of a direct command from God. Paul rounds off with the comment that "Adam was a pattern of the one to come." By pattern, he means "type" or "example". Adam, in his universal effectiveness for ruin, is a pattern of Christ's universal effectiveness for salvation.

v15. Having suggested that Adam is a "type" of Christ, Paul now contrasts the dramatic difference between Adam's "trespass" and Jesus' "gift" (his sacrifice for sin). God's gracious kindness ("grace"), enacted through Jesus Christ, bears no comparison to the consequences of Adam's sin. Adam's act of rebellion brought death to all humanity, but Christ's act of obedience (his "gift") brought life to all who believe. "The gift" transcends ("how much more") "the trespass."

v16-17. Paul now compares the consequences of "the trespass" and "the gift": a) Judgement dealt with the single sin of Adam, but the free gift deals with the accumulated sin of mankind; b) The judgement of Adam brought condemnation, but the free gift of God brings justification; c) Adam's sin brought about the reign of death, but the unspeakable generosity of divine grace brings about the reign of life, v17. The "reign of life" refers to living a renewed life in Christ, now and for eternity.


The central idea of our passage for study serves to remind us that humanity is saved in the same way it is lost - through the act of another person. Adam, through his transgression, brought condemnation to all who are connected to him. Christ, through his righteousness, brings justification to all who are connected to him. So, the path to life, or the path to death, is a simple one to follow. It all comes down to whom we choose to connect with.

Nature or nurture, what makes us the way we are? Up till recent times we argued that humans are moulded by the environment. Little weight was put on the power of genes. This was probably a reaction to the Nazi view of humanity - genetic purity. So, the shaping powers of nurture, education, parenting.... these are the elements that make us who we are.

Today, there is a move away from this behaviorist model toward the power of genetic coding. Many now argue that we are a product of inherited genetic coding. Some of the recent twin studies are very interesting. Separated identical twins tend to adopt similar behavior patterns. Obviously, genes play an important part in the shaping of a person.

We are probably best to take a 50/50 approach; it's 50% nature and 50% nurture. What is clear is that we inherit the traits of others, either through genes or nurturing. The Bible says we inherit something else which, although easily observed, is rarely admitted by a godless society. The Bible tells us that we inherit the sinfulness of Adam and thus, his condemnation. A society, either capitalist or socialist, which ignores the inherited sinfulness of the human species, is doomed.

The good news is that we can inherit, through the gift of spiritual new birth, the righteousness of Jesus and thus, not only stand approved in the sight of God, but see our life shaped by the indwelling presence of the risen Christ. All this a gift of God's kindness, a gift for the asking.


1. The "death" that followed sin. What does death entail?

2. Why does Paul stress that all are guilty as a result of one man's sin?

3. In what way is Adam a "type" or "figure" of Jesus Christ?

4. Adam and Jesus differ in that Christ did much more for us than just remove the guilt of Adam's one sin. What was the "much more"?

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