Romans 5:12-14 – Sin and Death


Last week we took a look at the idea of Original Sin vs. Garden Exile and Original Death.

  • The issue we wrestled with was how we are condemned for the actions of Adam and Eve.
  • Essentially, we rehashed a lesson from our Genesis series on Romans 5:12.
  • Today I want to expand Paul’s thought a bit by dealing with verses 12-14.


To set up this lesson I want to point out that…

  • We too often think today that our main problem before God is our sin.


We teach that the solution to our sin problem is to repent.

  • Which we define as stopping our sin and walking in obedience.


This is not the Gospel that Paul teaches.

  • Paul has already said something about this in Romans 3.
  • And he expands on it in our text today.



Romans 5:12–14 (ESV) — 12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— 13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.


Paul breaks off from finishing his point in 5:12.

  • The dash at the end of verse 12 in the ESV signifies this break in Paul’s train of thought.
  • It appears that he picks back up on his train of thought in verse 14b and following (Moo).


But why does he get momentarily of course?

  • To answer this, we need to see what he says.



Verse 13 and 14:

Sin, of some sort, was present before Sinai.

  • sin indeed was in the world before the law was given” – vs. 13.


But it was a sin that was “not counted” or reckoned because it was before Sinai.

  • not counted where there is no law” – vs. 13
  • Not counted” here refers to a legal stance of not being worthy of death – Douglas Moo.


That is a bit strange!

  • There is a sin that is not worthy of death?
  • What in the world is this weirdness?


Paul seems to be aware of the oddity of this statement.

  • He goes on to say, as if he is surprised to be in disagreement with himself…
  • Yet, death reigned from Adam to Moses” – vs. 14.
  • Death referring here to both its spiritual and physical aspects (Moo & Schreiner).


So, Paul concedes that those whose sin was “not counted” did and do experience death.

  • “Those” here being those that lived between Adam and Moses.
  • This is seemingly a contradiction of his previous statement.
  • Those whose sin is “not counted” in fact died.


He then expands on the idea of a “not counted” sin with a “not like” sin.

  • He says death reigned “even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam” – vs. 14.
  • Very similar to his, Romans 4:15 (ESV) — 15 For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression.


In other words, death not only came to those whose sin was “not counted”.

  • The “not counted’s” sin was “not like the transgression of Adam”.
    • Transgression meaning “violating an express command of God” – Douglas Moo.
  • Yet, in spite of both these things – “not counted” and “not like” – death still reigned for thee folks.
  • Apparently this is not something we would expect.


All of this brings us back to ask why did Paul take this detour in verses 13 and 14.

  • What point was he trying to make?
  • And how is he not contradicting himself?



Death and Sin:

There is some disagreement about this.


I think…

  • The point Paul is making is that dominion/ownership are fundamental (not the law) to whether death and sin obtain.
    • death reigned” – vs. 14
    • death reigned” – vs. 17



What we know:

We already know that Paul teaches that the law is not needed to have some kind of sin.

  • Romans 2:12 (ESV) — 12 For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law.


Yet it is clear that Paul sees a difference between “law sin” and “law-less sin”.

  • Or as Tom Schreiner puts it…
  • Paul believes that “apart from the Mosaic law sin is not equivalent to transgression”.


But what is common to all is the reign of death – “death reigned” (vss. 14 & 17).

  • Whether one has “law sin” or “law-less” sin, all live under the reign of death.
  • Paul refers to this reign of death elsewhere as being “in Adam” or “under sin


So Paul’s point is to demonstrate the priority of dominion over law.

  • If law were our problem, Paul would be contradicting himself as we pointed our earlier.


In other words, “sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned…

  • Would be problematic if it was the law breaking that was fundamentally responsible for the reign of death.


But our problem is far more problematic than acts of sin or law breaking – even as serious as these are.

  • Let’s unpack this idea of dominion to tease this point out.



Dominion of Sin – In Adam and Under Sin:

In Romans 3, we saw that Paul teaches that all are “under sin”.

  • Romans 3:9 (ESV) — 9 What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin,


Every human being is born under the dominion, ownership and power of sin.

  • This is true whether one has the law or not!!
  • And Paul says this is “because of one man’s trespass” – Romans 5:17.


And Paul established – rather easily – that because of this all people die.

  • death spread to all men” – Romans 5:12.


And, again, this is the case whether one has the law or not.

  • As Schreiner says, “the power of death is so great that it exercises its dominion over people even if no law exists” – Tom Schreiner.


So, all of this means that, fundamentally, the problem of death is not law-breaking.

  • Something, according to Douglas Moo, that some Jews thought.


Or to put it another way:

  • Our connection to Adam is not law breaking and acts of sin.


The problem is that we, because of Adam, were born in Garden Exile.

  • In this place we are alienated from God.
  • In this place we live under the dominion of sin.
  • In this place death – spiritual and physical – reigns.


The parallel to this is faith and Abraham.

  • Our connection to Abraham is not obedience – he didn’t have the law.
  • Our connection is faith.


We will see in the coming weeks that understanding this will help us understand what Christ as done.

  • It will help us understand how Paul can say Adam was a type for Christ.
  • a type of the one who was to come.” – verse 14.
  • In fact, it will be at this foundational level that Paul will connect Adam and Christ.


Right now, it should help us to see that a focus on behavior is a distraction from dominion.

  • We are all in Garden Exile where death reigns and sin happens.
  • Death reigns, Paul says, not law breaking.


Repentance as commonly defined – a stopping of sin – will get you nowhere if done in the reign of death and the dominion of sin.

  • If fact, Paul will show in Romans 7 that the law was designed to show us this.
  • Romans 7:10 (ESV) — 10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me.


If our problem is behavior, the solution needed is not all that drastic.

  • But if our problem is dominion – the reign of death – then we are in need of some drastic measures.
  • Measures that we ourselves are powerless to actualize.


We need something much more than new behaviors.

  • Just as one man led us into Garden Exile.
  • We need somebody to lead us out of Garden Exile.
  • We need a new Moses and a new Joshua.
  • We need a new High Priest to usher us into a restored Sacred Space.