Romans 5:12-21 - my most difficult passage

We all have passages of Scripture that we find difficult to understand and wonder about its meaning. There are two passages that stand out to me as confusing and other worldly. The first is Romans 5:12-21. Like so many passages, one of the reasons this section of Scripture is difficult for me is because of the various interpretations that I have heard of this text and the different theological beliefs that influence how one interprets this text.

Some use this Scripture to explain original sin. They point out that through Adam we all have sinned. They look at the power of Christ's one sacrificial act and point out how the sin of the original human being could have such a universal appeal. But then I look at this passage and wonder, if this passage is used to justify or explain original sin, then wouldn't it also stand to reason that there is universal salvation. Because if all have sinned and all have gained death as a result of that sin, a parallel reading would mean that through Jesus Christ all died on the cross, all rose from the dead, and all have been given new life through Jesus Christ.

But then there is the interpretation that references this Scripture to argue that all have been saved through Jesus Christ. That Christ's death was atoning for everyone and his resurrection was also life-affirming for everyone. That even if we do not believe in Jesus, we will be saved, because he has made the way for us all. The difficulty with this interpretation is when we hold it up to other passages of Scripture, including passages in Romans. Ironically, the 10th chapter of Romans in my Bible has been given the title "Salvation Is for All" even though it is in this chapter that we read verses such as, verses 9-10, "if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved." Then there is the clarification that everyone who is saved includes both Jews and Gentiles, but more specifically it includes everyone who calls on the Lord. (9:12-13)

So I read Romans 5 and I try to forget what I've been taught and I invite the Scripture to speak for itself. Yet at the same time, I read it from the New Revised Standard Version and acknowledge that the translators had interpretive lenses when translating the Greek, even if they tried to be professionally neutral.

So, this is what I get from my own personal reflection:

vs. 12 - sin entered the world when the first person sinned.
12 - death entered the world at the time that the first sin was committed. It seems as though death did not exist prior to this moment.
12 - all people have sinned - since death is linked with sin, this means that all who have sinned, which is everyone, will die.
13 - before God gave the law to Moses and the Israelites/Hebrew people, sin existed in the world. So sin does not require law in order to exist. Does this mean that sin cannot be given the limited definition of "breaking the law of God" or "breaking the 10 Commandments?
13 - the significance of the relationship between sin and law is that sin is only reckoned or counted when there is law. So sin brought death before sin could be reckoned.
14 - so without the reckoning of sin, death still powerfully reigned over sinful people and it didn't matter the severity of their transgression.
14 - Adam is a type - a model that points to someone in the future - of the "one who was to come"
14 - the transgression of Adam was unique - and somehow his transgression was a type related to the "one who was to come" ?
14 - Moses sinned as well.
15 - There is a difference between the gift that God gives for free and Adam's sin.
15 - Many died through Adam's sin, yet God's gift of grace was more abundant than sin.
15 - Question: Did the grace of God through Jesus Christ abound more in covering the larger quantity of sins than Adam's individual sin or did the grace of God through Jesus Christ abound more in forgiving more people than just Adam? When it says "abounded for the many" does "many" refer to sins, sinful people, or both?
15 - the free gift that is within God's grace is Jesus Christ.
15-16 - the gift of grace offered through Jesus Christ is greater than the effect of Adam's sin.
16 - there is a difference between the effect of Adam's sin and God's grace through Jesus Christ.
16 - The judgment of one sin brought condemnation.
16 - The free gift following many sins brought justification.
17 - Though one man's sin, death "exercised dominion through that one"
17 - Through many people, the free gift of righteousness and the abundance of God's grace "exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ."
17 - Death exercised dominion through one person, God's grace and righteousness exercises dominion through many people. (WoW - Is that not powerful! I had not caught this before! I think this means that God's gift of grace and righteousness, although given through Jesus Christ, is exercised powerfully through His followers! See the impact difference?!)
17 - God gives an abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness.
17 - Jesus Christ!!!
18 - Adam's sin, led to the condemnation for all. (In the sense that he sinned, and thus his influence led to all sinning)
18 - Jesus' act of righteousness led to the the justification and life for all. (Jesus acted righteously which influenced others to live righteously.
18 - Result of Jesus Christ's obedient/faithful life = justification and life!
19 - (Hmmm, here is a thought, when it says "one man" and is referring to the one who sinned, is it possible for "one man" to refer to both Adam and Eve since they were seen as one flesh?)
19 - By one man acting disobediently, many became sinners.
19 - By one man's act of obedience, many became righteous.
20 - The consequence of the giving of the law was that more people sin. (Makes me think of kids and how telling them to not do something often leads to them doing it, even though if you had not said anything, they probably wouldn't have done what they did.)
20 - Where sin increased, Grace abounded more.
21 - Sin exercises its power with death.
21 - Grace exercises its power with justification leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ.
21 - Sin leads to death, God's grace leads to eternal life.
21 - Eternal life comes through Jesus Christ our Lord.


I realize that this passage is more about death and life than it is about Old Testament types and the question of who is saved. The big idea is that when sin entered the world, death entered the world, but when God's grace and righteousness appeared through Jesus Christ, eternal life replaced death. Also God's grace is more abundant than sin.

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