Romans 3:10-18 says the following:
10. As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:
11. There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.
12. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.
13. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips:
14. Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness:
15. Their feet are swift to shed blood:
16. Destruction and misery are in their ways:
17. And the way of peace have they not known:
18. There is no fear of God before their eyes.
These verses are often used as a main text to support the concept of total depravity.
Total depravity is the Calvinist doctrine that human nature is thoroughly corrupt and sinful as a result of the fall of Adam. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of depraved is – very evil: having or showing an evil and immoral character. In addition, Merriam- Webster defines depravity as a very evil quality or way of behaving: an evil or immoral act.
The question I would like to present here is this: Does the whole counsel of scripture support the belief that all humanity is totally depraved (having very evil and immoral character)?
The question is not, “Has all humanity been effected by sin?” The question is that of total depravity. Is all (unsaved) humanity completely evil to the core? In a nutshell, total depravity is the belief that all humanity, as a result of the fall of Adam, is corrupt in their entire being and wholly incapable of doing anything truly good.
If all humanity has become totally depraved through the fall of Adam, then it would stand to reason that all of Adam’s descendants, without exception, would be totally depraved.
Does the Biblical account of all the people in the Bible support this ideology, or does the testimony of scripture refute it? I contend that the Biblical record refutes it, and I would like present the reasons why I make that claim.
Beginning in Genesis 4, the concept of totally depravity is called into question.
After Cain became angry because God had accepted Abel’s offering and had not accepted his offering, God told Cain that sin was knocking at the door and that he should not allow it to rule over him, least it become his master (see Genesis 4:6-7).
God did not deal with Cain as if he were totally depraved. On the contrary, God instructed Cain to rule over this sin that was knocking at the door. The Bible tells us that Cain murdered his brother not because he was totally depraved, but because his deeds were evil and his brother’s was righteous.
For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous. (1 John 3:10-11)
If all humanity were totally depraved, then this would include Abel, yet the apostle John tells us that Abel’s works were righteous. Remember the definition of depravity is a very evil quality or way of behaving: an evil or immoral act. The Bible never describes Abel in this way. On the contrary, the Bible repeatedly describes Abel and his works as righteous.
If Cain and Abel had been totally depraved, Cain would have been unable to rule over the sin knocking at the door, and Abel would not have done that which was righteous.
In the gospels, the Lord Jesus Christ declared that Abel was righteous (Matthew 23:35) and the writer of Hebrews tells us: Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh. (Hebrews 11:4)
No matter how you stack it, the statement, “Abel obtained witness that he was righteous,” completely dismantles any concept of total depravity: a theology that does not take into account the testimony of scripture concerning the real people who lived for God.
If the doctrine of total depravity were true, it would be true of everyone, but what about those in scripture who sought after God?
WHAT ABOUT ENOCH?
The Bible says, Enoch walked with God (Genesis 5:24). The author of Hebrews tells us: By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.(Hebrews 11:4)
Enoch was such a man of God, who pleased God, he never died! Jude tells us that Enoch prophesied of the coming of the Lord as well (Jude 1:14).
WHAT ABOUT NOAH?
The Bible says Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God (Genesis 6:9). Noah was righteous in the sight of the Lord (Genesis 7:1) and in Ezekiel, God mentions Noah along with Daniel and Job as righteous (Ezekiel 14:14, 20).
In the New Testament, the apostle Peter refers to Noah as a preacher of righteousness (2 Peter 2:5) and the writer of Hebrews testifies of Noah’s righteousness as well.
By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear (the fear of the Lord), prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became the heir of the righteousness which is by faith (Hebrews 11:7).
WHAT ABOUT ABRAHAM?
The scriptures tells us, Abraham believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness (Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:3, 9, 22; Galatians 3; 6; James 2:23).
Abraham had integrity of heart (Genesis 20:5-6) and a faithful heart towards God(Nehemiah 9:7, 8) and Abraham is called the friend of God (2 Chronicles 20:7; Isaiah 41:8; James 2:23). Throughout scripture God is referred to as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Matthew 32:22; Mark 12:26; Luke 20:37; Acts 3:13; 7:32).
Jesus said Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad (John 8:56) and God’s promise to Abraham was to bless all the nations through his seed: Jesus Christ (Acts 3:25; Galatians 3:16).
Abraham is called the father of faith and the father of all who believe (Romans 4:16; Galatians 3:7, 9, 29) and the blessing of Abraham comes on the Gentiles through faith in Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:14).
Abraham was a man of faith who obeyed and feared God (Genesis 22: 12; 26:5; Hebrews 11:8). We see also that Isaac and Jacob were men of faith who feared the Lord and obeyed him as well.
Also, the apostle Peter refers to Sarah, Abraham’s wife, as an example of holy women, who trusted God, by adorning themselves with a meek and quite spirit (1 Peter 3:4-6).
Lot, Abraham’s nephew, also was a righteous man.
In 2 Peter 2:7-10, the apostle Peter references Lot as an example of how the Lord is able to deliver the godly out of temptations. Peter calls Lot a just and righteous man whom the Lord delivered from the fitly lifestyle of the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrha.
We also read of others in the scriptures, who feared God, before we ever get to Moses and the Exodus of Israel from Egypt. For example the Hebrew midwives feared God and refused to obey the King of Egypt (Exodus 1:17) and because they feared the Lord, many lives of Hebrew children were spared, and God gave the midwives familes (Exodus 1:20-21).
WHAT ABOUT JOSEPH, MOSES, JOSHUA, AND CALEB?
Joseph fled from sin when he was tempted by Potiphar’s wife (Genesis 39:7-12) and forgave his brothers who betrayed him.
Moses is called the man of God (Deuteronomy 33:1; Psalm 90:1; 1 Chronicles 23;14) and was a very humble man (Numbers 12:3) and interceded for Israel seeking God’s forgiveness and favor (Exodus 32:11). Moses feared the Lord (Deuteronomy 9:16-29) and was faithful in God’s house (Numbers 12:7; Hebrews 3:5).
Furthermore, the author of Hebrews says, By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible. Through faith he kept the Passover, and the sprinkling of blood, lest he that destroyed the firstborn should touch them. By faith they passed through the Red sea as by dry land: which the Egyptians assaying to do were drowned (Hebrews 11:24-29).
Moses’ successor, Joshua, was chosen by God to lead the children of Israel into the Promised Land because he was a man who sought God, feared God, and trusted God. Also the mantle which God had placed on Moses was transferred to Joshua before he led Israel into the Promised land (Deuteronomy 31:14, 23; 34:9).
During the time of Moses we read of others like Caleb, who along with Joshua were the only 2 among the 12 spies who trusted God and because of their faith they were rewarded by God. In fact God said of the following about Caleb:
But My servant Caleb, because he had another spirit with him, and hath followed Me fully, him will I bring into the land where into he went; and his seed shall possess it (Numbers 14:24).
WHAT ABOUT PHINEHAS AND OTHERS?
We also read of Phinehas, who was of priestly descent. He was zealous for God’s holy justice and turned God’s wrath away from the children of Israel (Numbers 25:7-13) and his zeal for God was counted as righteousness to him and to his generations (Psalm 106:30-31). God gave to him and his descendants a covenant of peace because he was jealous with zeal for the Lord.
Job also was a righteous man (Ezekiel 14:14, 20). In fact the Bible says he was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil (Job 1:1). Job was such a godly man that God even showcased him in the face of Satan (Job 1:8). Job was God’s servant, a man accepted by God (Job 42:7-8) and an example of patience (James 5:10-11) and he learned that God is merciful and compassionate.
As we venture through the scriptures we read of God’s servants such as Gideon, Deborah, Ruth, Naomi, Boaz, Hannah, Samuel, Jonathan, Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Nehemiah, Ezra, Esther and others who feared God, sought him, and were righteous in his sight.
When God sent Samuel to anoint David to be king over Israel, God said to Samuel: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). David was a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:32).
In 2 Samuel David said, “the Lord rewarded me according to my righteousness: according to the cleanness of my hands hath he recompensed me” (2 Samuel 22:21) and “the Lord hath recompensed me according to my righteousness; according to my cleanness in his eye sight” (2 Samuel 22:25).
David walked with God in truth, and in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart (2 Kings 3:6) and David’s heart smote him after he sinned against God (2 Samuel 24:10).
King Solomon was blessed by God because his father, David, walked before God in truth, and in righteousness, and was righteous in his heart (1 Kings 3:6; 1 Kings 9:4). David is also the one who said, “Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.”
Paul cites this text in Romans 4 within the context of justification.
Josiah who was a descendant of David and the King of Judah, was like his father David in that had a tender heart before the Lord and he humbled himself before God when he heard the Word of the Lord (2 Kings 22:19).
We also read of Daniel who had an excellent spirit (Daniel 5;12) whom God called righteous, along with Noah and Job (Ezekiel 14;14,20).
In Nehemiah 7:2, Hananiah is mentioned as a faithful man and more God fearing than most others.
Furthermore we read in Psalms and Proverbs about those who are righteous and those who seek God and who fear the Lord. Phinehas, mentioned previously, is spoken of in Psalms 106 as righteous.
The apostle Peter tells us that God spoke by the mouth of all his holy prophets (Acts 3:21) and makes reference to the words which was spoken by the holy prophets as they testified of the coming of the day of the Lord (2 Peter 3:2). Furthermore, the author of Hebrews expounds on the faith of some of the old testament saints calling them a great cloud of witnesses that have gone on before us (Hebrews 11-12:1).
According to the testimony of scripture, Adam’s sin did not give every human being a heart of rebellion against God, nor did it give everyone a heart to desire sin. The Psalmist said “My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God” (Psalm 84:2).
NEW TESTAMENT EXAMPLES
When we come into the new testament we see more examples of people who served the Lord, feared Him, and sought him.
We read of Zacharias and Elisabeth, the parents of John the Baptist. The Bible says,they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless (Luke 1:6).
We also read of Simeon, a just and devout man, who was waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him (Luke 2:25).
We read of Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser. She was an elderly lady who had been a widow for a long time. The Bible says: she departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day (Luke 2;36-38).
In Matthew 13:17 Jesus said to his disciples, “many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.”
In Matthew 23:35 Jesus condemned the Pharisees and scribes of all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, who was slain between the temple and the altar.
Furthermore, we read how John the Baptist, the forerunner to Jesus the Messiah, was a just and holy man (Mark 6:20) and he was filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother’s womb (Luke 1:15). We also read how Jesus came to be baptized by John the Baptist, to fulfill all righteousness (Matthew 3:15) and how Jesus said to the temple authorities, “John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him” (Matthew 21:32, see also Luke 7:30).
Joseph, the husband of Mary, the mother of Jesus, was a just man (Matthew 1:19), and Jesus commended Nathanael for being an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile (John 1:47). We also read of Joseph of Arimathaea who was a good and just man (Luke 23:50-51).
After Jesus was crucified and raised from the dead, we read of men like Cornelius, a Gentile centurion from Caesarea. The Bible says he was a devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God always (Acts 10:1-2).
Not only did Cornelius fear God, but those of his household did as well.
When the apostle Peter was sent to testify of Jesus to Cornelius and his house, Peter said, “of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him” (Acts 10:34-35).
Contrary to the doctrine of total depravity which claims that even the good things we do are tainted by sin, Cornelius’s alms giving to the poor had come up as a memorial before God. God did not view Cornelius’s giving to the poor as selfish and tainted by sin, but as righteous works instead. Yet Cornelius still needed Salvation, and because his heart was towards God, God sent Peter to him with the words of Salvation.
In Acts 13 the apostle Paul said to those to whom he was preaching, “Men and brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, and whosoever among you fearth God, to you is the word of this salvation sent” (Acts 13:26).
In both cases: when Peter preached to Cornelius and his house, and when Paul preached in Acts 13, those who feared God had not yet been born again and because of their reverence for God, the word of salvation was sent to them.
With these examples we can see that the words in Romans 3:10-18 cannot be rightly interpreted as a sweeping condemnation that all humanity is totally depraved.
PAUL’S APPEAL TO THE SCRIPTURES
How then should we understand Romans 3:10-18?
Consider the following:
Romans 3:10-18 uses quotes from the old testament which make a distinction between the wicked and the godly. Therefore, we should not come to the conclusion that Paul is citing these scriptures to prove that everyone is only ungodly and totally depraved.
First, notice Romans 3:10-12: As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.
These words are taken from Psalm 14 and Psalm 53 which are almost identical Psalms. Both begin with the words, “The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God.”
Psalm 14:1-3 says the following: The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good. The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.
Now notice verses 4-7 of the same Psalm: Have all THE WORKERS OF INIQUITY no knowledge? who eat up MY PEOPLE as they eat bread, and call not upon the Lord. There were they in great fear: for GOD IS IN THE GENERATION OF THE RIGHTEOUS. Ye have shamed the counsel of THE POOR, because THE LORD IS HIS REFUGE. Oh that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion! when the Lord bringeth back the captivity of HIS PEOPLE, Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad.
In the original text from which Paul quotes, the ALL who do not seek after God is a reference to the workers of iniquity in contrast to the people of God.
It is not a reference to every person in the Psalm, nor is it a reference to every person in Romans. It is a reference to those who practice lawlessness.
Romans 3:13 is a quote from Psalm 5:9 and Psalm 140:3. In both, the context is referring to deliverance from wicked and evil people. In both Psalm 5 and 140, the Psalmist appeals to God to deliver him from those who are wicked because he is righteous.
Romans 3:14 is a quote from Psalm 10:7 which is a Psalm regarding the wicked who show contempt towards God in their pride and is in contrast to the humble and poor who trust in God.
Romans 3:15 is a quote from Proverbs 6:18. Consider the context of Proverbs 6:16-19:
These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.
Romans 3:16-17 appears to be commentary made by Paul regarding what has been said in verses 10-15 and not necessarily a direct quote from the old testament.
Romans 3:18 is a quote from Psalm 36:1, which is another reference to the wicked in contrast to those who trust in the Lord.
When we consider the old testament contexts from which Paul quotes in Romans 3:10-18, we cannot conclude that Paul is making a sweeping statement that every person is wicked, wretched, and evil.
CONTEXT IS THE KEY TO PROPER UNDERSTANDING
From Romans 1:18 until 3:18 Paul is not teaching that man is inherently depraved. On the contrary, Paul says, “that which may be known of God is manifest IN THEM; for God hath shewed it unto them” (1:19).
Man in his fallen condition isn’t inherently depraved, for man possess both the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 3:22).
In Romans 1 the issue is not that they were inherently depraved, but rather, that they chose to do the things they did, and in doing so they rejected the knowledge of God.
Because that, WHEN THEY KNEW GOD, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. (Romans 1:21)
And even as they did not like to RETAIN GOD IN THEIR KNOWLEDGE, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, TO DO those things which are not convenient…(Romans 1:28).
The wrath of God was revealed against them, not because of their inherit depraved nature, but because they rejected the knowledge of God and did those things that are wicked.
In Romans 2 Paul addresses the Jew. Paul does not condemn the law breaking Jew because he is inherently depraved. Paul condemns the law breaking Jew because of his deeds.
Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest DOEST THE SAME THINGS. But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which COMMIT SUCH THINGS (2:1-2).
But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; Who will render to every man ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS… (2:5-6)
Paul chides the hardhearted Jew, not over his inherit depravity, but because of his deeds which are in transgression of the Law. Paul doesn’t use the word nature to describe man’s sin in the book of Romans. On the contrary, Paul uses the word nature in reference to the knowledge of good and evil with regards to man’s conscience.
For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law; (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified. For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, DO BY NATURE the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, THEIR CONSCIENCE ALSO BEARING THEM WITNESS, and their thoughts the mean while ACCUSING or else EXCUSING one another;) In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel…(Romans 2:12-16)
When we come to Romans 3, we must continue within this contextual flow of thought when reading verses 10-18, which is not a reference to inherit depravity, but condemnation on those who do such things.
Every description in 3:10-18 has to do with deeds, not nature. It has to do with God’s wrath and judgment against those who do such things.
In 3:22 Paul begins to expound on the righteousness of God and his grace towards all sinners. The contrast has to do with law and grace. The Law finds all men guilty in the sight of God, because the Law exposes man’s sinful deeds.
In chapter 4 Paul appeals to Abraham’s faith to show how Abraham was justified in the sight of God. This is in stark contrast to those referenced in 1:18-3:18. When reading Romans 4 in its entirety, one cannot come to the conclusion that 3:10-18 can be rightly applied to Abraham.
Again, man possess both the knowledge of good and evil, not simply the knowledge of evil. Man does evil because he choose to do evil. We see all throughout the old testament that unregenerate man has desires for both good and evil.
We read in Psalms where the Psalmist says, “My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the LORD: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God.” In contrast, the Psalmist says of the wicked man, “For the wicked boasts of his heart’s desire…”
In Romans 7,` Paul addresses this struggle between the desire to do good and the lust for evil. Paul is not speaking from the vantage point of being in Christ. Paul is instead, speaking from the vantage point of one who is unregenerate and under the Law.
Paul expounds on how the Law awakened sinful desires resulting in this inward struggle. The desire to do good was present along with the lust to do evil. The dilemma Paul addresses is the inability to overcome sin in his carnal state – “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”
This was the result of being carnal (subject to death and futility) -sold under sin.
Man is a sinner because he sins, not because he is inherently depraved. Yet because of the weakness of his carnal nature, man cannot overcome sin. Only in Jesus Christ can man be freed from sin’s power which wars against his soul. Romans 6 expounds on this.
MAN’S CONDITION IN ADAM
Before Adam sinned, he and his wife Eve, were “naked and not ashamed” (Genesis 2:25).
The word naked in Genesis 2:25 comes from the Hebrew word arown, which carries the thought of being partially covered. Though Adam and his wife were physically naked, they were covered with something.
After Adam sinned, the Bible reveals they were “naked and afraid” (Genesis 3:7-10). The word naked in Genesis 3:7 comes from the Hebrew word eyrom, meaning completely naked.
Adam and his wife Eve became void of something (the most likely answer is the glory of God) which covered them prior to sinning, and therefore thy sewed fig leaves together in an effort to cover their nakedness.
They had become carnal mortal beings and subject to death rather than immortal. They were now under the power of the flesh without the presence of the glory of God. Mortality was now at work in humanity.
In Romans 7, the apostle Paul referring to the effect which the Law has on those who are in the flesh, says “we know that the law is spiritual: but I AM CARNAL, sold under sin.
In Adam, humanity is under the power of sin because he is carnal or fleshly.
We can see from the old testament that there were many people in this fallen state of spiritual death, who walked with God, pleased God, desired God, desired to do good in the eyes of God, and who also did good and righteous things in the eyes of God. Many of them are referred to in the new testament as examples for us to follow.
Therefore any concept which perpetrates the idea that man inherited a spiritual nature that drove him to only desire to do evil and that those with this nature have nothing in them that desires to do right, is a wrong concept and ought to be refuted.
In Genesis 3:22-24, God himself states that fallen man is not only capable of evil but is ALSO capable of good.
And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, TO KNOW GOOD AND EVIL: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:” Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.
Notice that God does not refer to man in his fallen state as completely evil, butknowledgeable of both good and evil.
God created man in his own image and in Adam that image was marred by Adam’s disobedience. In Christ it is redeemed, for Christ is the image of the invisible God and all who trust in him will be changed into that same image from glory to glory (2 Corinthians 3:18).
The Bible teaches that it was death which came on all men through Adam’s disobedience. Death and spiritual darkness go hand in hand in scripture. Adam’s sin was catastrophic for all humanity because it caused humanity to be under the curse of death, darkness, and futility. Since humanity is in a fallen state, we ALL sin. It is impossible for anyone to live without sinning in their fallen humanity.
This does not mean that Adam’s personal act of disobedience was judicially imputed to each of us as our own personal sin. The Bible never says that Adam’s personal act of disobedience was imputed to all humanity. In Romans 5 Paul clearly says that sin was not imputed from Adam to Moses, nevertheless death reigned over all.
HOW IS SIN IMPUTED ?
Sin is imputed by the Law, as the apostle Paul argues in the book of Romans. God gave the Law to Israel to impute sin. Through his covenant with Israel, God deliberately gave the Torah to be the means of concentrating the sins of humanity so that he might bring an end to sin’s power through the cross. The Law, as the Light of God, reveals what sin is and its effects on us all.
In Adam all are sinners, not guilty of Adam’s transgression, but guilty of each of our own transgressions. The Law reveals each of our sins. The Law does not reveal that we are all guilty of Adam’s personal act of disobedience.
When those who die without Christ stand before God in the Day of Judgment, God is not going to judge them according to what Adam did. God is going to judge them according to what they did. Every man will give an account for his own sins.
It is the Law which imputes sin because the Law brings to light man’s frailty, man’s carnal desires, and man’s evil deeds which result from the death which came on all through our union with Adam.
Consider the following outline from Romans 5:12 – 21:
Romans 5:12, 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…
- Notice that it was death that passed or came upon all, not Adam’s personal disobedience.
- The words “for that all have sinned” at the end of verse 12, is literally, “in whom all have sinned.” In Adam (that is, in our fleshly carnal humanity) we have all sinned.
- It is because of our union with Adam “in death” as fallen humanity, that we have all become sinners.
Romans 5:13-14, (For until the law sin was 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, who is the figure of him that was to come.
- Notice, it was death that reigned over all, not Adam’s act of disobedience being imputed.
Romans 5:15, But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one MANY BE DEAD, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.
- Through Adam’s offence many are dead.
- Again, it is death that came on all through Adam. This is what Paul is addressing in Romans 5, not Adam’s personal act of disobedience being imputed as our personal sin.
Romans 5:16, And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for THE JUDGMENT was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification.
- The judgment referred to here is death. “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:22)
- Paul says THE JUDGMENT for sin is DEATH and that is what has come upon all.
- Remember verse 14, “Nevertheless DEATH REIGNED FROM ADAM TO MOSES, even over them THAT HAD NOT SINNED after the similitude of Adam’s transgression.”
- Through Adam’s disobedience the judgment, which is death, came on all and reigned over all.
Romans 5:17, For if by one man’s offence DEATH REIGNED BY ONE; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.) Therefore as by the offence of one JUDGMENT CAME ON ALL MEN TO CONDEMNATION; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men UNTO THE JUSTIFICATION OF LIFE.
- Notice that it is death that reigns over fallen humanity via Adam’s transgression.
- The judgment is death, “In the day you eat thereof you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:17)
Romans 5:19-21, For as by one man’s disobedience MANY WERE MADE SINNERS, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. Moreover the law entered, THAT THE OFFENSE MIGHT ABOUND. But where SIN ABOUNDED, grace did much more abound: That as SIN HATH REIGNED UNTO DEATH, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord
- Sin reigning UNTO death is better translated as “sin reigning IN death.”
- In Adam (in the death that came through Adam) we have all becomes sinners, i.e., many were made sinners. The Law entered that the offence might abound – that the effects of Adam’s transgression might be amplified. That is why the Law is called the ministration of death (2 Corinthians 3:7). In Romans, Paul refers to the Law as “the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1).
The judgment or condemnation for Adam’s sin was death. Through Adam, sin entered into the world and DEATH spread to all men. Because of death at work in us all, we all sin. This is why the resurrection is so important for us. If Christ had not risen from the dead, our faith would be in vain and we would all still be in our sins as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15.
In Christ we have received the first-fruit of the Spirit; therefore, resurrection life is already at work in us giving us power over sin. Yet we wait for the promised hope of resurrection when our mortal bodies will be changed and death will be completely swallowed up in victory.
Through the blood of Jesus, our sins are remitted (forgiven, cancelled, and taken away) and through the resurrection of Jesus the sentence of death we inherited in Adam has been overturned.