Pastor’s Class Notes
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Romans 5:12-14a “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered
into the world, and death by sin; and so
death passed upon all men, for that all
have sinned: (For until the law sin was
not in the world: but sin is not imputed
when there is no law. Nevertheless death
reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them
that had not sinned after the similitude
of Adam’s transgression. . . .”
Introduction: Christ came to earth and died because of sin. Paul has been rejoicing in that fact. But in order to appreciate the work of Christ better, we need a more complete understanding of sin itself. Hence, Paul turns our thoughts to the beginning of our race. He points us to Adam, from whom at least three problems issue:
I. THE INTRUSION OF SIN
Sin was not in God’s original plan. Evil invaded our realm, and intruded where it did not belong. It entered as a foe, a wolf, a plague; or maybe it would best be described as a monstrous tidal wave. Adam damaged the dike, and the tidal wave rushed in, wreaking destruction everywhere.
Whatever our ultimate theological position regarding original sin and human depravity, we all must agree that the Bible teaches that the whole history of the world was changed by the sin of Adam. The dealings of God with man were forever altered.
Since God was Creator and Lord, it was incumbent upon Him to do something about the havoc Adam’s sin introduced. Had God done nothing, it would have been an abdication of His throne. Absolute anarchy and total chaos would have prevailed.
God could not destroy the whole race, for that would have been an admission of defeat at the hands of Satan. The Devil could have taken credit for completely thwarting the handiwork of God.
No, a warfare had to be carried out to its conclusion. Satan would continue his attacks against us, but Christ would come to redeem us. At Calvary, Jesus would meet the Devil head-on in combat. In the resurrection, Jesus proved to be victorious. But it all began with the intrusion of sin.
II. THE INHERITANCE OF WEAKNESS
Adam was not the same after he sinned. He suddenly felt guilty and naked; he was afraid, hid from God, tried to escape blame. Something had happened in Adam’s constitution. Something went sour on the inside.
Since all of humanity was in his loins at that time, we also suffered in this calamity. What is transmitted to us from the seed of Adam is what Adam became after the fall. Adam defiled his nature by sin, and that nature has been transmitted to every human being.
Independently of us, Adam’s evil brought weakness upon us. In some way, to some extent, we fell when Adam fell. But let me clearly state that we inherit weakness, not guilt; depravity, not everlasting condemnation. We will amplify this thought later.
After the Fall, Adam could only generate that which was like himself. He begat sons “in his own image, after his own likeness” (GN 5:3). The first baby grew up to be a criminal, a murderer. Everything had become degenerate.
Ever since the Fall, all parents have transmitted spiritual weakness to their children. They pass on nothing but a heritage of utter bankruptcy and old debts and a desire to accumulate even more debts.
This is the only logical explanation for the present condition of humanity. If evolutionary theory were correct, we would be rising from savagery and headed upward. But human experience explodes any such myth. The exact opposite is true. We started at our best, fell to our worst in a second of time, and have stayed at our worst ever since.
The universality of sin can be adequately explained only in the Biblical message about Adam’s sin. The fact that all men everywhere sin cannot be an accident. There has to be a root cause. When all the limbs of a tree are corrupt, you know something is wrong in the root.
The universal phenomenon of sin is not a coincidence. It is a blossom, an outward product, that finds its roots in the failure of our first progenitor.
III. THE INCLUSIVENESS OF DEATH
When Adam allowed sin to enter, it brought along an unwelcome child: Death. Originally, our bodies were not meant to die. But when Adam sinned, that all changed.
Death was never intended as an original part of our makeup. That may explain why scientists are having trouble understanding the aging process and dying. These things were not a part of our original design. Had Adam never sinned, he and you and I would never die.
Since we were in the loins of Adam when he sinned, we sinned then also. Therefore, we all came under the sentence of physical death at that moment. Everyone dies a physical death because of Adam’s sin. Adam’s sin, not your own, is the reason why you will someday die physically.
The last two verses of our text are a parenthesis to prove this fact. The Jews would claim that individuals die because they themselves are flagrant violators of Moses’ law. But not so! Men died long before that law was ever given.
The moment Adam sinned, the sentence of death was passed on all his posterity, except Elijah and Enoch. Its scepter is a scythe which mows down the ranks of men. It is a ruler that will be the last enemy set aside (1Cor 15:26).
And it all stems from Adam’s sin. There is no other logical explanation for the unpredictability and haphazardness of death. It strikes down the good as well as the bad in youth; it allows the evil as well as the pure to become old.
There is no other explanation for the death of infants. They obviously do not die because of their own sin. They are safe in death. They inherit a weak nature and physical death, but not guilt. Because of Adam’s sin, death is a part of our physical make-up. From these three problems received from Adam–the intrusion of sin, the inheritance of weakness, the inclusiveness of death–we draw some vital lessons:
A. DO NOT BLAME ADAM FOR YOUR SINS
Since we inherited a sin nature, some might be tempted to say, “Sin is not my fault; I cannot help myself.” One could almost be tempted to use it as justification for evil.
However, we should instead recognize our sinful nature as a cause to be vigilant. We should realize we have this weakness and should pray without ceasing for God to fill us with His strength.
B. GOD HAS PUNISHED THE HUMAN RACE APPROPRIATELY
That all men should die was a just punishment. What Adam did simply pictured what any and every human being would do in the same situation. Even the innocent infants who die would have grown up and chosen a life in sin.
Also, death was an appropriate punishment. Sin essentially causes separation from God. Hence the punishment is appropriate to the crime–Death is the ultimate separator.
Separation between our spirits and God is punished by separation between our spirits and our bodies. Separation from God results in separation from friends and loved ones.
Death is simply God’s way of letting us know that we have only a limited amount of time in which to get right with Him.
C. EACH INDIVIDUAL DETERMINES HIS OWN
From Adam you inherit physical life, physical death, and spiritual weakness, but not spiritual death. You were not born with personal guilt. There is no personal guilt apart from personal disobedience.
You can blame your first death on Adam, but the second death is caused by one’s own rebellion against God. At some point in life, you, like Adam, chose to disobey God and live in sin. At that moment, you became guilty before God. And unless you repent of sin, and flee to the Savior, you will go to Hell when you die. It will be your own fault.
D. GOD IS JUST
The Lord is fair in all His dealings with us. It would be easy to say, “It is not fair for God to reckon Adam’s sin against me. Why should I suffer because of something that happened long before I was born?”
I will have to answer that question with another question, “Is it fair for God to reckon your sin to the account of Christ, and is it fair for His righteousness to be reckoned to your account?”
God always deals with us on the basis of imputation. Just as the sin of Adam can be ascribed to our detriment, even so the death of Jesus can be ascribed to our credit. Jesus has died for you. Your everlasting destiny hinges upon your acceptance or rejection of Him.