‘Before the law was given, sin was in the world'



[Romans 5:12-21]




                Look at Romans 5:13-14: “for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law.  Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come.”  The Bible says that sin was in the world before the law (v. 13).  The word “before the law” here refers to the law that God gave to Moses at Mount Sinai when the Israelites came out of Egypt and came to Mount Sinai (Exod. 20:1-17; Note: Deut.5: 6-21).  Then, “before the law” refers to when and when, from the time when Adam sinned (Gen. 3) until Moses received the law from God at Mount Sinai (Exod. 20) (about 2,500 years).  Even then, there was a sin.  In fact, from Genesis 3 to Exodus 20, there are many sins recorded in the Bible.  Take, for example, the murder in which Adam's eldest son Cain killed his brother Abel (Gen. 4).  When man began to multiply on the earth (6:1), the Lord saw that the world was full of man's iniquity, and that every plan of his heart was always only evil (v. 5).  The people of this time were very wicked and corrupt in the sight of God, and the whole world was filled with sin (v. 11).  So there was Noah's Flood (chs. 6-8).  Another example is that the people of Sodom and Gomorrah were very wicked and were committing great sins (18:20).  And before the Israelites came out of Egypt, Pharaoh, king of Egypt, committed many sins. 


                Romans 5:13 says, “for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law.”  From the time when Adam sinned, before Moses received the law from God on Mount Sinai, from Genesis 3 to Exodus 20, people sinned a lot for about 2500 years, but they did not consider it a sin.  They did not clearly know that sin was sin, nor did they know that the cost of sin was so great.  So they took sin lightly.  But “the law” reveals sin.  Look at Romans 3:20 – “Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.”  Here we have to consider three uses of the law (Internet): (1) to bring sinners to Christ by convincing them of sin, (2) to restrain sin through fear of punishment, and (3) to be used as a norm for the lives of believers.  Therefore, the more we know the Word of God, the more we can understand sin and the seriousness of sin.  But if we do not know the words of the Bible, we are sinning without knowing our sins.  There are far more sins we do not know than those we know and do.  Therefore, in order to fight and overcome sin, we must diligently learn and know the Word of God.  Look at Psalms 119:9, 11: “How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word.  …  I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”  Look at Ephesians 6:11, 13: “Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes.  …  Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”  The first thing that comes out of the full armor of God is “with the belt of truth buckled around your waist” (v. 14).  We must commit ourselves to knowing the truth.  We must draw close to God's Word and meditate on it day and night.


                Romans 5:14 says, “…  from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam ….”  The people who lived from Adam to Moses for about 2500 years did not commit the same sin as Adam's transgression.  Here, Adam's sin was the sin of disobedience (Gen. 3:6), which was a violation of the covenant God's command to “do not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (2:17), which was illegal (1 Jn. 3:4).  This is a sin that only Adam committed because he broke the covenant of works he made with God as the representative of mankind through disobedience.  All the sins that people have committed from Adam to Moses are not the same sin as Adam's.  This is not the sin committed by as did Adam, who broke the covenant of works made with God as the representative of mankind.  To be more specific, the sins committed by people from Adam to Moses were the sin that entered the world through one man, Adam (Rom. 5:12).  Even infants cannot sin because they cannot break any law, but the Bible says that sin entered the world through one man, Adam, and in this way all sinned (v. 12).  Here “all” includes infants who are incapable of breaking any laws.  How, then, can it be explained that infants also sinned?  It is imputation.  Because Adam, the representative of mankind, sinned, his sin was imputed on to all people.  The Bible says, in him all sinned (v. 12).  Adam's sin became ours through heredity.  Not only does Adam's guilt become ours through imputation, but the corruption of his nature is also transferred to us (original sin).  Look at Psalms 51:5 – “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.”  Look at Westminster Confession of Faith 6:3 – “They being the root of all mankind, the guilt of this sin was imputed, and the same death in sin and corrupted nature conveyed to all their posterity, descending from them by ordinary generation.”


               Romans 5:14 says, “death reigned.”  The word that death reigned here means that sin entered the world through “one man” (v. 12) and “the offense of Adam” (v. 14), and death through sin, and death spread to all men (v. 12).  In other words, everyone succumbed to death.  Therefore, no one overcame death.  Although Methuselah, Noah's grandfather in Genesis, lived to be 969 years old, he also died in the end (Gen. 5:21).  Qin Shi Huang, who was the first emperor of China from 230 BC to 221 BC, built China's first unified empire.  He desperately wanted the immortality drug and tried to get it.  He thought it was immortality and ate it, but it shortened his life.  In the end, his dream of immortality also failed and he also died (Internet).


                Romans 5:14 says, “Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.”  Who is “Him who was to come” here?  He is Jesus Christ.  ‘A type’ is the same shape, but different.  That is, the first Adam and the second or last Adam, Jesus Christ, are the same, but not the same, but different.  In Romans 5:12-14, Adam and Jesus Christ are the same and different: (1) The same is representative.  Adam and Jesus Christ are representatives.  Adam is the representative of the old covenant, and Jesus Christ is the representative of the new covenant.  Another one is imputation.  Just as Adam's sin was imputed to everyone, so the righteousness of Jesus Christ was imputed to all believers in Jesus.  (2) The difference is reigning.  Death reigned because of Adam's offense (v. 14), but through one act of righteousness of Jesus Christ (v. 18) will reign in life (v. 17).  There was a man who did not die before the law.  His name is Enoch.  Enoch walked with God (Gen. 5:24) and ascended to heaven without dying (Heb. 11:5).  There were people who did not die even after the Law.  His name is Elijah.  He ascended into heaven in a whirlwind without tasting death (2 Kgs. 2:1-11).  Those who are in Christ are those who overcome death.  When Jesus returns, the living saints will not die, but will be transformed and enter the kingdom of heaven.  Another difference is “the gift” (Rom. 5:15, 16).  Although we are sinners who are God’s enemies, the righteousness of Jesus Christ has been imputed to us, and God has justified us.  We have been given eternal life (6:23) as a gift (5:15) by the grace of Jesus Christ.


                Therefore, we must strive to know Jesus Christ!  The hymn “More About Jesus Would I Know” goes like this: (v. 1) More about Jesus would I know, More of His grace to others show; More of His saving fullness see, More of His love who died for me.  (v. 2) More about Jesus let me learn, More of His holy will discern; Spirit of God, my teacher be; Showing the things of Christ to me.  (v. 3) More about Jesus in His word, Holding communion with my Lord, Hearing His voice in ev-'ry line, Making each faithful saying mine.  (v. 4) More about Jesus on His throne, Riches in glory all His own; More of His kingdom's sure increase; More of His coming, Prince of Peace.  (chorus) More, more about Jesus, More, more about Jesus; More of His saving fullness see, More of His love who died for me.  Look at Philippians 3:7-8: “But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.  What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ.”  As we strive to get to know Jesus Christ, let us give thanks and rejoice in the Lord and worship Him.