by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 5 Paragraph # 2 Study # 1 Lincolnton, NC April 11, 2006
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:
1901 ASV Translation:
12 Therefore, as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin; and so death passed unto all men, for that all sinned:
I. Sin Entered the World Through One Man.
A. At this point, we are entering an area of mystery.
1. Paul has labored to install the truth in his readers that they have a reconciled relationship with God based upon the Person and work of Jesus, the Christ.
a. This includes the major reality that we are justified by faith.
b. This includes the major reality that such a blessed state is rooted in God's love for us.
c. This includes the major reality that, apparently, men are disinclined to believe in His love even when they have received the benefit of it...even when the Spirit has poured it out in their hearts. For whatever cause, man's inclination is to disbelieve the claim that the Christ has accomplished the reconciliation. Paul would not have had to labor to establish this truth if men were easily persuaded.
2. Paul is continuing his labor in this next section of Romans 5 to drive as deep a wedge as possible between man and his penchant to "fall back upon" his confidence in his own labors. All of 5:12-21 is focused upon one major truth: as all men were enslaved by the actions of one, so all who believe are set free by the actions of One.
a. Apparently it is a very basic aspect of man's world-view that God can not possibly be as gracious as Paul presents Him. Man, apparently, is fundamentally committed to the notion that God requires at least a very basic commitment to doing what is right from man -- a commitment that will show up in actual performance -- if He is going to be gracious to him.
1) This world-view is reinforced at every point in man's "explanation" of God...he turns almost every declaration by God regarding the necessity of right behavior into a "perform or perish" dogma.
2) It is almost inescapable. Relationships do live or die by right behavior. There are real consequences to wrong behavior.
3) But, it is just as inescapable that there is no escape for those whose view of God is "legal". Paul's labor is spent in attempting to turn man from this view of God. How can we be turned while real consequences exist? Do not real consequences automatically feed the "I must..." conclusion? And does not the "I must..." conclusion automatically feed the "God is not that loving" mindset? Note the "setting" of Romans 5:12-21. It "sits" between the three-fold declaration of the believer's "exulting" in 5:1-11 and Paul's two-fold question of Romans 6:1 and 15, "shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?". Without dispute, unless a person gets close enough to the edge of "grace as license" to be accused of it (Romans 3:8), he probably isn't understanding grace as he should.
4) And, it is just as inescapable that the real escape is in realizing that God is not going to condemn His believing children no matter what they do. That is not to say that He is not going to "criticize", or that He is not going to "discipline" -- even to the point of physical death --, but it is to say that "Justice" is not in the picture -- anywhere. Justice has been fulfilled by Jesus -- completely, absolutely, and without qualification. What is in the picture is God's absolute determination to press His children in the direction of a love-based, faith-energized, Spirit-empowered practice of what is right in respect to Himself as well as to all of His creation.
b. And, just as apparently, it is a very basic aspect of man's world-view that man can be as committed as God requires.
3. There are two sides to the "mystery": the "mystery of godliness" (1 Timothy 3:16) and the "mystery of iniquity" (2 Thessalonians 2:7).
B. The major question is this: How did the actions of one man effectively dominate every man afterwards?
1. Sin "entered" into the world by the "sin" of one man. This is the biblical claim. This entrance was massively successful as it established Sin's presence as the dominating reality.
2. This "entrance" had to have had some kind of "actual" impact way beyond the insertion of bad "ideas" (doctrines of demons). Bad ideas are bad enough, but bad ideas do not guarantee that everyone will accept them. There had to have been something accomplished by the Tempter that actually enslaved mankind. If the issue were simply bad ideas, it is conceivable that believers could outgrow the bad ideas and pass their success on to their children who would outgrow any residual bad ideas and pass their success on to their children so that in a generation or two, sin would be stamped out. The fact, however, is that no matter how much a "believer" grows, the next generation manages to be some worse than the prior one. The "mystery of iniquity" is real.
II. Death Entered the World Through the Sin.
A. The impact of Sin's entrance was "Death".
B. The nature of "Death" is crucial to our understanding.
1. "Death" clearly signals a breakdown of some kind.
2. The realms of "Death" that are manifest by our experience of death are all characterized by the reality of "incipient chaos". Everything we know of as "death" has to do primarily with a gradual disintegration of the fundamental ability to maintain the principles of life. Early in physical life, the vitality of life principles is relatively strong, but the longer time goes on, the greater is the gradual breakdown of those life principles until the onslaught of death is no longer stayed. The physical picture is that of a "new" creation that is gradually corrupted until "life" cannot be sustained. The absolutely clear and open blood vessels gradually become clogged until no "life" can flow in them. When the "clog" is absolute, "life" is over. There is a host of metaphors in the physical realm that all illustrate the one single reality: the ability to "live" is eroded over time until that which allowed and promoted life is overwhelmed and death ensues. It is no wonder that "deism" became a popular theological concept. The picture is of a "new" creation being set forth to be gradually worn down until "death" is complete. Without the "Gospel" of a continuous inner renewal, "deism" seems to be a legitimate description of experience. This Paul acknowledged in 2 Corinthians 4:16.
3. "Death", thus, simply must be a present fact at every level of "life" from the beginning. The "seed" of "Death" is within each person and it comes with the "seed" which impregnates the egg of "life". There simply has to be a binding presence of Death at every level of life in order for Death to always triumph. So, there must be an unbroken physical connection across the generations that underwrites physical death. There must also be an unbroken spiritual connection across the generations that underwrites the inevitability of total spiritual disintegration (apart from the grace of divine intervention in the form of spiritual regeneration). The eating of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, therefore, did actual physical damage to the "seed" of man that is irremedial without resurrection and it also did actual spiritual damage to the spirit of man that is irremedial without continuous divine input.
III. Death Passed Into All Men.
A. The "sin" of the one was the "sin" of the many -- all sinned when he sinned.
B. The consequence of "sin" (Death) fell upon the many because the many were guilty. There is an integrated unity in humanity that crosses all generational lines so that we did what Adam did. In this same way, Levi paid tithes to Melchizedek (Hebrews 7:9-10). The "germ" of humanity was in Adam's "seed" and humanity cannot escape the corruption of Adam without death and resurrection.