12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned— 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 those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. 15 But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. 16 The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification. 17 For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. 18 So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. 19 For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous. 20 The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Rom5:12-21)
Another Pauline passage packed with theology – some familiar to most, other aspects, I suspect, less so.
Starting at the top Paul affirms the reality of original sin – because of Adam’s fault, sin and its consequences fell upon the human race “even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam” (v14). Does that seem fair? –if God had left the matter there, possibly not. But thankfully He did not leave it there, and as hinted at in the previous post the final outcome will be even better for humanity than if Adam had not sinned in the first place. But that will certainly not be apparent to many Christians as they currently perceive the matter, hence “The Little Book of Providence”** to reveal the true extent of God’s magnanimity and His wondrous plans for humanity – plans which so aggrieved certain members of the angelic race, especially You-know-Who, whilst those angels who were content within their own sphere and remained faithful are nevertheless filled with amazement and desirous to look into this matter (1Pet1:12).
Secondly, note that Paul affirms that where there is no law sin is not imputed. This is not just “Paul being Paul” as I used to think, it is gospel truth. God does not condemn individuals for that of which they are ignorant, albeit that their ignorance may result in their suffering in their earthly lifetime. That is the case with original sin and its consequences, but thankfully the remedy has already been provided. And that remedy functions at two levels resulting in three potential outcomes, as a careful analysis of Paul’s narrative reveals.
There is the universal exchange: “As through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men” (v18). “All” means all, but it does NOT mean that no one is to be condemned at final judgement. That would be to confuse “justification” in the present with final judgement (as many Christians have). But thanks to that universal exchange, no one (least of all an unbaptized baby) will go to Hell to “pay the price for Adam’s sin”. Those who are punished will be those who have contributed to the destruction of the Earth and have acted inhumanely towards its inhabitants (cf. Rev11:18; Mt25:45).
To discern the vastly broader benign providence I am outlining one also needs to distinguish between “justification of life” (v18) and “reigning in Life” (v17). One pertains to the Universal Exchange in which all are justified from the guilt of Adam’s sin; the other pertains to what is even more graciously provided to “those who receive super-abundant grace and the gift of righteousness” (v17). As I have previously outlined, God is being entirely fair to all (or rather equally generous). That is in view of what is required of the latter grouping: “If we (Christians) suffer with Him we shall also reign with Him (2Tim2:12).
Again Paul is alluding here to the elect of God’s participation in the life of Christ (previous post): “For we are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh (2Cor4:11). Or as Jesus expressed it even more starkly: “Whoever wishes to save his own life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it” (Lk9:24). For as Paul will later affirm, God’s justice towards His elect and everyone else is both righteous and thoroughly intelligible: “(Your tribulations) are a witness to the righteous judgement of God, that you may be counted worthy to inherit the Kingdom of God for which you suffer seeing also that is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to those that persecute you” (2Thes1:5,6).
More will need to be said about the precise nature of original sin. For whilst Adam’s guilt has been dealt with by what I have referred to as the universal exchange, the impact of our first parents’ disobedience continues through the body we inherit through procreation. It is what Paul comes to refer to as “the body of this death” by which he is referring to the procreated intellectual vessel inherited from our parents, ultimately from Adam. When that is united at birth with the spiritual essence that is our God-given soul, being that part of us that survives physical death, it creates a moral dichotomy and ineptitude from which those chosen for Christ must be delivered (Rom7:24-25). Only then can they relate to God whilst in mortal flesh and through the spiritual resources provided to them be progressively sanctified and fashioned after the One with Whom they will one day be gloriously partnered. The matter will be covered in detail when we arrive at Romans 7.
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