by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 5 Paragraph # 2 Study # 3 Lincolnton, NC April 25, 2006
13 (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law.
14 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.
1901 ASV Translation:
13 for until the law sin was in the world; but sin is not imputed when there is no law.
14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the likeness of Adam's transgression, who is a figure of him that was to come.
I. Paul's Argument.
A. In 5:12 he claimed that Sin and Death gained dominion over this world by Adam, and he claimed that the reason was that "all sinned".
B. In 5:13-14 it seems that he felt a need to "explain" how "all" were guilty, so he claimed the historical fact that Death was in the world even though there was no "Law".
1. That "Death" exercised dominion over every man from Adam until Moses (except for Enoch) is "proof" that not only is "Death" here, its "cause" had to have been here also.
2. But, there is a "problem": how can it be that "Death" is imposed when there is no "Law" to violate?
a. First, there was no "Law" until Moses.
b. And, on the one hand, "sin" is not "reckoned" where there is no "Law".
1) Earlier Paul had quoted David's claim that there are people to whom God will not "reckon" sin (4:8). This is the heart of his Romans 6 doctrine of our freedom from Sin because we are not "under Law".
2) Now he claims that, though actions may well be "sinful", they are not "reckoned" to one's account (see Philemon 1:18 for the only other use of this term in the New Testament) if there is no "description" of right/wrong behavior on the scene.
3) Even earlier, however, Paul had noted that the Day of Wrath would be marked by judgment of all men -- those under Law and those who had no law. His argument was that those who were without "Law" were, nonetheless, a "law" to themselves in that the Law of God was written upon their hearts (2:12-15). This seems to compromise his claim that "sin is not reckoned when there is no law" because he has denied that there is ever a case in which "there is no law" since "the Law" has been written upon every man's heart. How do we understand his reasoning? On the face of it, he is clearly making a distinction between the "formal" declaration of "law" wherein the dictates of righteousness are expressed in words and the "informal reality of law" wherein an inner awareness exists but is not "clear" because the "awareness" has too many ambiguities (Nash's TheWordofGodandtheMindofMan has a "logos" doctrine in it that may explain this phenomenon). In this way, the real issue is not the actual presence of "Law", but the actual "understanding" of its requirement(s). And, even here, the issue of actual understanding has fuzzy edges. With Adam, there were no fuzzy edges about whether he should eat of the fruit of the forbidden tree. So, part of the "Law's" function is to move the fuzzy edges further away from the core issue. In the historical outworking of the Mosaic Law, there was a pronounced tendency to attempt to "explain" the meaning of the Law to press the issue of fuzzy edges further and further from the core (thus, the huge "commentary" on the meaning of "Remember the Sabbath" in the "traditions" of the Jews). With "finitude" there will always be "fuzzy edges", but with "intelligence" there will always be an unambiguous "core". Judgment, apparently, will be rooted in clarity, not ambiguity.
c. But, on the other hand, everyone was dying.
d. This has to mean that, though no one had sinned like Adam had -- against clarity -- everyone must have sinned because all were dying.
e. Thus, the "all sinned" of verse twelve: Death could not dominate except through Sin.
3. There is also, however, this hopeful truth: there was One to come who would be just like Adam in one respect -- He would be One in whom "all accomplished righteousness" in the very same way as Adam was one in whom "all sinned". Adam was the "type" of Him Who was to come.