June 25, 2023

The Doctrine of Original Sin (Romans 5:12)

The Doctrine of Original Sin (Romans 5:12)


Over the past several weeks, we have been looking not at the doctrine of justification but the results of justification. Namely, the benefits of the Gospel.

Last week, we learned that God’s love is seen most clearly in Christ’s death. We also saw that God’s love surpasses man’s love in that God ordained the death of His Son not while we were friends of God, not while we were obedient to God’s Law, not while we were righteous, but Christ died for us while we were enemies of God, disobedient to the Law, and slaves to sin.

Vs. 7-8 said, “For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

But more than that, we learned that Christ’s death actually secures something for the one who believes—eternal peace with God.

Vs. 9 says, “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.”

Namely, the blood of Christ appeases the wrath of God toward His people. That is, the penalty of death for your sin was paid by Christ’s death on the cross. He died in your place. He died the death that you deserved. And when He did this, His blood atoned for your past, present, and future sins, securing eternal peace between and God.

This is confirmed in Hebrews 10:11-14 which says, “11 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

But peace with God begs the question: How did humanity find itself in need of peace? What caused the hostility between God and mankind? And at what point did this enmity with God come into existence?

These are the questions the Apostle seeks to answer in the following ten verses.

He is dealing with biblical anthropology. He’s informing us about the human condition. And I can’t emphasize this enough. How you view the nature of man will affect how you view yourself, your children, the world, and most importantly the Savior.

If you get the condition of man wrong, you will certainly get the Gospel wrong.

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

  • In verses 12-21, you will witness a theme of comparison and contrast between Adam and Christ. This section of Scripture forms what theologians call the doctrine of federal headship.
  • That is, God has provided two representatives (or federal heads) for humanity—Adam and Christ. All humanity is unrighteous because we are born sinful in Adam, and in order to be righteous, we must be born again in Christ.
  • That is, we must experience a shift of representation from Adam to Christ. We must go from being dead in Adam to alive in Christ. From being guilty in Adam to being justified in Christ. From being sinful in Adam to being righteous in Christ.

Vs. 12: Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned— (in the sinning of Adam).

  • He’s already opening with a comparison clause—”just as one man sin entered into the world.” Now, we know the “one man” is referring to Adam because he is named twice in verse 14.
  • But the object of Paul’s comparison to Adam, which is Christ, is not seen until verse 15. But again, I just want you to see the design of Paul’s argumentation because it will help us see the critical distinctions between Adam and Christ.  
  • Next, Paul wants us to see the origin of sin. Namely, the root of sin and how the sinfulness of all humanity began with the sin of one man.
  • Paul does this by inserting a foundational truth from Genesis 2 regarding the ancestry and consequence of sin.
    • Genesis 2:16-17 says, “And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
    • Death is the consequence of sin.
      • Romans 6:23 says, “The wages of sin is death.”
    • But in the Bible, death is two-dimensional because life is two-dimensional.
    • We have spiritual life, and we have physical life. Therefore, we have spiritual death, and we have physical death.
    • Interestingly, God says to Adam, “In the day that you eat of it, you shall surely die.”
    • So, the obvious question becomes: In what way did Adam die that day?
    • To answer that question, you must understand how Scripture defines death. And the answer is: separation. In the Bible, death is separation.
    • When the soul separates from God (the source of spiritual life), the soul dies. And sin is the catalyst of spiritual death.
      • Isaiah 59:2 speaks of this disunion when the prophet writes, “But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.”
      • Sin separates us from God. This is why Adam and Eve hid themselves from God in their shame and why they were separated or expelled from the Garden. They were no longer holy and sinless and could not be in the presence of a holy and sinless God. Their fellowship was broken.
      • This is why Scripture describes those outside of Christ as being spiritually dead.
      • Ephesians 2:1 says, “And you He made alive, those who were dead in trespasses and sins.”
      • Ephesians 4:18, speaking of the spiritually dead, says, “They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God….”
      • Colossians 2:13 says, “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses.”
      • This is why Jesus says in John 15:5, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me, you can do nothing.”
      • It’s vital that we grasp this concept of union and separation because this theme is carried all the way through Romans 6. If you look at the heading of Romans 6 in your ESV or New King James or NASB, it will read “Dead to sin, Alive to God.” It’s an entire chapter about how in Christ, we are separated from the power of sin to condemn and are joined to God in Christ, giving us eternal peace, justification, and life.
    • But God’s promise of death to Adam in Genesis 2 for his disobedience was not limited to the separation of the soul from God (spiritual death) but also to the separation of the soul from the body. This is physical death.
      • You see, when Adam sinned, his body was no longer eternal, and began the process of dying.
      • Ecclesiastes 12:7 speaks to this form of death when it says, “And the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.”
      • So, spiritual death is the separation of the soul from God, and physical death is the separation of the soul from the body.

This brings us back to our verse here in Romans 5, which says:

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned— 

  • Through Adam’s disobedience, sin entered into the world, and, like a genetic disease, Adam’s corrupted and sinful nature (his spiritual and physical deadness) was passed down through procreation to all
  • As a result, all men are born spiritually dead, with souls separated from God and needing a spiritual resurrection. This is why Jesus says we must be born again.
  • In addition, we are born with physical bodies that die. This is why we long for a physical resurrection at the final coming of Christ.
  • The point that Paul is making here is that sin is not just an individual act that we commit that causes us spiritual and physical death; sin is also a condition inherited by all humanity through our relationship to Adam.
  • 1 Corinthians 15:22 says, “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ, all shall be made alive.”

This is the grand narrative of the Bible. We were in perfect union with God in the Garden of Eden. We had spiritual life and bodies that would never die. But sin separated us from God and corrupted our bodies. As a result, we need a Redeemer to do two things: First, we need him to reconcile us back to God, giving us eternal spiritual life, and second, we need him to conquer death, securing us resurrection power and giving us eternal physical life.  

  • In Christ, that is exactly what we get—eternal life—both eternal spiritual life and, at the final coming of Christ, eternal physical life, all in a renewed heavens and earth where we will dwell with God forever.

I know this sounds like a great place to end this sermon, but I must touch on the last phrase of verse 12. “because all sinned.”

  • What does this mean? It says, “Death spread to all men because all sinned.”
  • There are two ways to interpret this:
    • First, you can take it as “death spreads to all men when they sin.” This is how people interpret it who believe that children are not born as sinners but become sinners when they commit their first sin.
    • But this interpretation is inconsistent with the natural grammar of this verse, the line of argumentation that Paul is using, and the theological positions of the rest of the Bible regarding this issue.
    • The second interpretation, which I firmly believe to be true, is that “death spread to all men because all sinned in Adam’s sin.”
    • In other words, all people experience death because all people have Adam’s sin imputed to them. That is, Adam’s sin is assigned to all men because Adam is mankind’s representative head.
    • One theologian said, “As difficult as that truth might be to accept, Adam’s one act of sin was deemed mankind’s act of sin, and his one sin was theirs
      • Allow me to offer you three pieces of evidence to further support this interpretation.
      • First, Romans 5:18 says, “So then as through one transgression there resulted in condemnation to all men.” This clearly shows the relationship between Adam’s sin and the universal condemnation of humanity outside of Christ. There is real federalism or representation that cannot be ignored.
      • Second, Romans 5:19 says, “For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners.” To me, this is as clear as it gets.
      • All humanity is guilty of Adam’s sin because Adam is the root of all humanity—even Eve came from Adam. In a very real sense, when Adam sinned, all who came from Adam sinned with him because, in a sense, we were genetically in him when he sinned.
      • Now, this is also why Jesus could not be born of man but had to be conceived by the Holy Spirit. For if He came from the seed of Adam, He would have been born with imputed sin and could not pay for our sins with His life because he would have to pay for His own sins with His life.
      • And we know that, unlike Adam, Christ was sinless. Unlike Adam, who broke God’s one Law, Christ kept God’s Law. This is proven by the resurrection. That is, if the wages of sin is death, and Christ had no sin, Christ did not need to be born again, and when Christ died for our sins, he could not stay dead because He had no sins of His own.
      • Imputed sin is also the reason infants who have yet to commit acts of sin still die and are not resurrected. If they were truly sinless like Christ, God would need to resurrect them, or God would be unjust. Now, this does not mean that all infants go to hell; it simply means that all humans, including infants, are sinners. But glory be to God, who can save sinners.
      • Third, and this is essential, if we deny the doctrine of imputed sin from Adam, then we must also deny the doctrine of imputed righteousness from Christ.
      • That is, if we believe that our condemnation before God comes only by our own individual acts of sin and that Adam’s sin has no representative condemning power over us, then we must also believe that our righteousness before God comes only by our own individual acts of obedience and that Christ’s righteousness has no representative power to save us.
      • As John Piper says, “If you believe this, you will have no Gospel.”
      • And I agree. If you do not have this, you have a works-based, Roman Catholic, Pharisaical religion that is not Good News and will not save and will leave you unrighteous before God on Judgement Day.

There is no good news without the imputed righteousness of Christ by faith. Without the righteousness of Christ eternally wrapped around us, we would lose our salvation every time we sinned.

James 2:10 says, “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it.”

This is the beauty and glory of the Gospel. That we were dead, and now we are alive. We were separated and now are united to Him by faith. And this is the point that Paul is getting at. Our peace with God—our reconciliation—by Christ is wonderful because, through Adam, we were separated.

It’s what makes Romans 8:38-39 words to memorize, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Nothing will be able to separate God’s people from God’s love in Christ. If you are His child, you will never be lost. In the words of Jesus in John 10:27-29 “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.”

When you are reunited with Christ by saving faith, when you have been made alive, when you have been made new, you will never return to your former state of spiritual death and separation from God.