‘Through one man’



[Romans 5:12-21]




                Look at Romans 5:12 – “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned.”  Here, the Bible says “through one man”, and in Romans 5:12-21, the word “one man” appears 12 times in the original Greek (10 times in Korean).  Who does “one man” refer to here?  When the Apostle Paul said “one man,” he was referring to two different people.  Look at Romans 5:15, 17: “But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God's grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!  …  For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.”  In these two verses, the first “one man” the Apostle Paul is referring to is the “one man” who “sin”, and the second “one man” refers to Jesus Christ. 


                Who, then, was that “one man” who sinned?  This is the first man, Adam, who is the progenitor of mankind in Genesis 2.  Look at Genesis 2:7 – “the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”  In 2 Corinthians 15:45, the Apostle Paul refers to Adam as “The first man Adam”.  The reason is to compare it with another “one man” (Rom. 5:15, 17), Jesus Christ.  That is why Jesus Christ is said to be “the last Adam” (2 Cor. 15:45).  God made the first Adam the representative of mankind and made a covenant with him.  This covenant is referred to as “the covenant of works.”  In this covenant of works, God gave a command to Adam, and if Adam obeyed God's command, he would receive a blessing (eternal life), but if he disobeyed, he would receive a curse (death).  Here God commanded Adam, “You shall not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for in the day that you eat of it you will surely die” (Gen. 2:17).  The first man Adam (2 Cor. 15:45), the progenitor and representative of mankind, who was “one man” (Rom. 5:12), was responsible for obeying God’s covenant command.


                Romans 5:12 says, “sin entered the world”.  The word “sin” appears eight times in Romans 5:12-21.  What is “sin”?  The Bible speaks of “sin” in four ways: (1) Sin is illegal.  In other words, to sin is to break the law.  Look at 1 John 3:4 – “Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness.”  (2) Sin is knowing how to do good and not doing it.  Look at James 4:17 – “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins.”  (3) Sin is not doing by faith.  Look at Romans 14:23 – “But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.”  (4) Sin is not reaching the measure even though we do by faith.  Sin is a lack of obedience.  The answer to the question and answer Q14 of the Presbyterian Church of Korea in America is as follows: (Q) ‘What is a sin?’  (A) ‘Sin is the lack or violation of the law of God’ (1 Jn. 3:4; Jam. 4:17; Rom. 3:23; Jam. 2:10).’   The “sin” that the Apostle Paul speaks of in Romans 5:12 refers to the sin of the first man, Adam, the progenitor and representative of mankind.  Verse 19 says that Adam's transgression was “disobedience of the one man”.  Therefore, “sin” in Romans 5:12 is Adam’s sin, and that sin is disobedience to God’s command, “You shall not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Gen. 2:17).  In the end, Adam disobeyed the word of the covenant, “You shall not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (v. 17), which he had to do without being responsible for obeying the command of God who made the covenant.  If Adam had obeyed the word of the covenant of works, sin would not have entered this world.  There was no sin in this world before Adam disobeyed the words of the covenant of works [although there was sin in the angelic (spiritual) world].


                Why did the one man, the first man, Adam, sin by disobeying God's command?  This is because Satan, a fallen angel in the angelic (spiritual) world, sent the most cunning serpent among wild beasts to Eve, the first woman of mankind (Gen. 3:1), to tempt her (vv. 1-5).   The woman, Eve, was tempted by the serpent and saw the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (2:17), which God had commanded not to eat, and was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom [cf.: “the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life” (1 Jn.2:16)], she took some and ate it.  She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.  Eve ate of the fruit and gave it to her husband Adam, who was with her, and he ate (Gen.3:6).  As a result, sin entered the world (Rom.5:12).  And death came through sin (v. 12).  Here, “death” refers to three types of death: (1) Spiritual death: Adam met the death of the soul (spiritual death), which cut off communion with God because he disobeyed God’s command (Gen. 3:9-24).  (2) Physical death: Then Adam died physically at the age of 930 (5:5).  (3) Eternal death: When Adam died, his body and soul were separated and his body returned to the dust, but his soul went to the eternal world (eternal hell).  At the second coming of Jesus, Adam’s rotten body and his soul in hell will unite to be punished in hell for eternity.


                Look at Ephesians 2:1 – “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins.”  Because of the sin of disobedience of the first man, Adam, the representative of mankind, we too were spiritually dead because of disobedience and sins.  In other words, before we believed in Jesus, we were physically alive but spiritually dead.  The Apostle Paul described the condition of the spiritually dead in Ephesians 2:2-3: “in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.  Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.”  Look at Luke 9:60 – “But He said to him, "Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God.”  There are three types of people in this passage: (1) “the dead” [“spiritually dead”]: those who are spiritually dead (those who have lost communion with God), (2) “their own dead”[ “dead”]: those who are physically dead, (3) “you”: those who are living spiritually and physically who have fellowship with God.  These are the people who go and preach the kingdom of God.


                In the same way, all have sinned (Rom. 5:12).  The implication of this word is that all people of mankind have sinned.  There are several interpretations of this verse, but none of them are 100% correct.  The interpretation most supported is that the first man, Adam, was the representative of mankind and that he sinned, that all of the people of the human race belonging to Adam sinned.  For example, all athletes participating in the Olympics are athletes representing their country.  So, if an athlete wins a match in each event, he will be awarded a medal.  And at that time the national flag and national anthem of the country represented by the athlete who won the gold medal will sound.  At that time, the people of the country represented by the athlete watching the scene rejoice, saying, 'We won!'  The first man Adam, as the representative of mankind, sinned because he disobeyed the command of God's covenant (Rom. 5:12).  Look at Romans 3:23 – “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  Here, ‘sin’ is actual sin, meaning that the Jews or Gentiles, who are themselves, have sinned.  However, when Romans 5:12 says that all have sinned, it means that all sinned because of Adam's sin, not actual sin.  Theologically speaking, the sin of Adam, the representative of mankind, was imputed to all his descendants who belonged to him.


                See verses 3 and 4 of the Westminster Confession of Faith Chapter 6 (The Fall of Man, of Sin and of the Punishment): (v. 3) ‘They being the root of all mankind, the guilt of this sin was imputed (Gen.1:27-28; 2:16-17), and the same death in sin and corrupted nature conveyed to all their posterity, descending from them by ordinary generation (Ps.51:5; Gen.5:3; Job14:4, 15:14).’  (v. 4) ‘From this original corruption, whereby we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good (Rom.5:6, 8:7, 7:18; Col.1:21), and wholly inclined to all evil, I do proceed all actual transgressions (Jam.1:14-15; Eph.2:2-3; Mt.15:9).’  ‘Why does Adam's transgression affect his descendants?  And what was imputed on to the descendants of Adam?’


            (1) From Adam was transferred guilt and a corrupt nature.


The Westminster Confession of Faith 6:3 declares that because Adam and Eve were the origins of the human race, the consequences of their sinful death and their corrupt nature were passed on through birth to all who are born to their descendants.  Because Adam was the beginning and representative of all mankind, the effect of one man's transgression also affected his descendants (‘Representative principle’).


(2)   It is by the corrupt nature that is within us that we sin.


                  It is saying that what we inherit from Adam is not the responsibility of Adam's sin itself, but the corrupt nature of sin.  In other words, we, the descendants of Adam, have no desire to do good, have no ability to do good, and reject all good, and have inherited a tendency to do evil only, leading to actual sin.  In other words, what we inherit from Adam is a sinful and corrupt nature that compels us to sin (Internet).


                Eventually death came to all people (Rom.5:12).  Because of the sin of disobedience of the first man, Adam, the representative of mankind, we too were spiritually dead because of our disobedience and sin (Eph. 2:1).  We met the death of our souls (spiritual death) that cut off our fellowship with God.  And like Adam, if we died physically, we had no choice but to face eternal death.  In other words, when we die, our body and soul are separated and our body returns to the dust, but our soul has no choice but to go to eternal hell.  Then, at the second coming of Jesus, our rotten body and our souls in hell were united and we had no choice but to be punished in hell for eternity.  This is called “the second death, the lake of fire” (Rev.20:14).  Look at Mark 9:48 – “where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.”


                In this way, we died spiritually and physically because “the one man” (Rom.5:12), “the first man, Adam” (1 Cor.15:45) sinned because he disobeyed God’s command of the covenant and sinned.  We were people who died in their trespasses and sins (Eph.2:1), who had no choice but to die and live eternally in hell, which is a lake of unquenchable fire (Mk. 9:48; Rom.5:12).  However, because of the obedience of another “one man” (Rom. 5:15) and “the last Adam” (1 Cor. 15:45), Jesus Christ to the point of death on the cross (Phil. 2:6-7), God has given us eternal life, a blessing, by turning death, the curse, caused by the disobedience of the “first man” Adam (Deut. 23:5; Neh. 13:2).  By the grace of “one man, Jesus Christ” (Rom.5:17) we have been given the gift of eternal life in our Lord Jesus Christ (6:23; 5:15, 17).  The reason is because God, who is rich in mercy, loved us so much that He raised us, who were spiritually dead because of our sins, back to life together with Christ.  That is why we were saved by God's grace (Eph.2:4-5) [Adam was also saved by God's grace (Gen.3:21)].  Look at Ephesians 2:8-10: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”  Therefore, we must do good.  While praising the great love of God, we remember the grace of forgiving our sins by giving great love to the believers who believe in the infinite and unchanging love of God.  We must diligently preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.