Teaching series from Romans

Two Humanities

Romans 5:12-19

Teaching t07941


You should put a big, bold line between 5:11 and 5:12, because this marks a major transition in Romans--from justification to sanctification. These terms describe two different aspects of the salvation God gives us through Christ. Before we get into our text, let's be sure we all know the difference between these two terms.

Justification is God's permanent verdict of acquittal. Sanctification is a dynamic process of spiritual growth into Christlikeness.

Justification is God's deliverance from the legal penalty of our sins against God. Sanctification is God's deliverance from the practical power of sin over our lives.

Christians soon discover that although they have been forgiven, and experience some cool changes, they still have something deep within them that is still highly allergic to God, desiring to rebel against him, exalt self, etc. This is what Paul calls "indwelling sin" or our "sin-nature" (read 7:18-23 selections).

When you discover this reality, you can respond in one of three ways:

You can practice Pharisaic denial--hide behind a superficial Christian verneer (don't cuss; be nice in public) and tell yourself that you are therefore morally superior to others (Matt. 23:25,26).

You can give way to fatalistic despair--admit that your sin-nature is beyond your ability to defeat and give in to it ("What's the use?)

Or you can learn more about God's way of sanctification. This takes some time and effort, because the third contrast is . . . 

Biblical teaching concerning justification is "milk"--relatively easy to understand. Biblical teaching concerning sanctification is "meat"--more difficult to understand, as we will see over the next few weeks.

Yet it is God's will for every Christian to be able to understand and apply this teaching, because Paul writes this section to all the Christians in Rome, just as he did concerning the previous section on justification.

I will do my best to explain this material as simply and clearly as I can--but it will still require careful attention and prayerful reflection on your part. Are you ready? Here we go . . . 

The first order of business is to understand how we got this problem of our sin-nature. This is why Paul starts with a description of two humanities . . . 

The root problem: descent from Adam

Read 5:12. The first part of the verse should be familiar to most of us. The "one man" through whom sin and death entered the world is Adam (Gen. 2,3). When he disobeyed God's command concerning the fruit of the tree (Gen. 2:17), that was sin. And the result was death (Gen. 3:19).

But what about the second part (re-read)? Did death spread to all of us because we sinned like Adam did--or because we sinned with Adam? This is where the "meat" starts. As strange as it may seem, Paul is saying that death spread to all of us because we sinned with Adam. We know this for several reasons:

Read 5:13,14. Paul is saying that people between Adam and Moses died even though they didn't sin like Adam did in the sense of violating a direct command warning of death for disobedience. Why? Because it spread to them from Adam.

Read 5:15. Why do Adam's descendants die physically? Because of the transgression of Adam.

Paul states this same truth very clearly in 1 Cor. 15:21,22 (read).

We inherit death as a consequence of Adam's choice to revolt against God. Why? Because we were "in Adam" when he did this. We weren't conscious, of course--but because we descend from him biologically, his choices affected us in certain profound ways. Theologians call this "federal headship," which means that the choices of the ancestor affect all of his descendants in certain profound ways. Although this concept seems strange (even offensive) to our hyper-individualistic culture, it is a fact of human existence that is inviolably operative.

My last name is DeLashmutt. This is an Americanized form of a French name, de la Chaumette. My research indicates that the de la Chaumette's were Huguenots (French Protestants), who were severely persecuted in France during the 1600's and 1700's. Many immigrated to America to escape this persecution. I theorize that my ancestor survived the persecution by successfully immigrating to America, and I have two excellent lines of evidence to support my theory: I exist, and I live in America. In fact, because I was "in" my ancestor, there is a certain sense in which I can say that I escaped persecution and that I came to America.

This is what Paul is arguing in Rom. 5. Because the whole human race was "in Adam" when he rebelled against God, we all participated in that rebellion with him, and we all inherit the consequences for his rebellion.

Why is this important for understanding sanctification? Because it explains where we got our profound spiritual problems--and because it points the way to God's radical solution to those problems. But first let's understand the consequences we inherit from Adam . . . 

The consequences we inherit from Adam

Paul mentions three such problems in 5:15-19. We'll look at these verses more closely in a few minutes--but for now, let's just identify them.

We've already identified the first one--death (read 15:a,17a). This death refers not only to physical death, but also to spiritual death (separation from God). God warned Adam that in the day that he ate of the fruit, "dying, you shall die." In other words, there was an immediate death (separation from God) followed by an eventual death (physical).

This explains why we all die physically, and why we aren't born knowing God. Instead, from our earliest years we sense that we are alienated from God in varying ways and degrees (until we meet God through Christ).

We also inherit condemnation (read 5:16a,18a). This does not mean that God holds us guilty for what Adam did; the rest of scripture denies this (see Rom. 1,2). Rather, it means because we are born into the world separated from God and with a tendency to rebel against him which we all act on (NEXT), we are born headed inevitably toward sin and judgment.

Lastly, and most importantly for our study of sanctification, we inherit a sin-nature from Adam (5:19a)--an in-born inclination to rebel against God, make ourselves our own gods, use others for our own ends, etc. We do not get this primarily from our environment, but from Adam--it is his nature bequeathed to us and in our hearts from birth (read Mk. 7:20-23 selections). This is a dark picture, but it is also realistic.

If you are a student of history, you know that this is the major theme that consistently overshadows the minor theme of human goodness and nobility. Contemplating whether or not humanity has a future, the atheist Bertrand Russell's conclusion is the same as Jesus': "It is in our hearts that the evil lies, and it is from our hearts that it must be plucked out."1

If you are a parent, you know that your young children do not have to be taught to lie, manipulate, covet, or delight in hurting others. They do these things naturally and from a very early age. They have to be taught not to do this.2 Something is deeply wrong and spoiled from the beginning.

Since our spiritual problems are constitutional and inherited, no amount of positive self-talk or behavioral conditioning or religious discipline will ever uproot them. Since we inherit them from our federal head and his wrong decisions, the only real solution would be to somehow get a new federal head who did things right so we could inherit the blessings from this. God is not interested in merely reforming the old human race; his remedy is much more radical than that. His remedy is to create a whole new human race from a new federal head. And this is exactly what God has done through Jesus Christ.

Jesus: a new federal head

Re-read 5:14b. Adam was a "type"--a picture of him who was to come (Jesus Christ). In other words, Jesus was a new federal head, the inaugurator of a new humanity. This is why Paul elsewhere calls Jesus the "last Adam" (read 1 Cor. 15:45).

And because Jesus is the last Adam, his descendants inherit a blessing that is exactly the opposite of the curses inherited by Adam's descendants.

Read 5:17. All who descend from Adam are subject to death, as we saw. But all who descend from Jesus will reign in life--both personal union with God in this life and eternal life in the next.

Read 5:18. All who descend from Adam are subject to condemnation, as we saw. But all who descend from Jesus receive God's gift of justification.

Read 5:19. All who descend from Adam receive a sin-nature, as we saw. But all who descend from Jesus receive new resources to be made righteous. Ultimately, when Jesus returns, his descendants will have their sin-natures eradicated. In this life, we still retain our sin-natures--but we receive a new nature that motivates us to follow God, and a new relationship with our sin-natures that removes its authority over us. We will learn more about this (and how to apply it) NEXT WEEK as we study Rom. 6.

How can you become a descendant of Jesus?

The obvious question is: How do you become a descendant of Jesus? He had no biological children, and physical re-birth is impossible anyway. Here is wonderful difference between descent from Adam and descent from Jesus.

You become a descendant of Adam by physical birth, which is completely apart from your choice. But you become a descendant of Jesus by spiritual birth, which is completely by your choice.

This is exactly what Jesus taught. You may remember the conversation he had with Nicodemus in Jn. 3. When Nick asked how to gain entrance into God's kingdom, Jesus told him he had to be born again spiritually (read Jn. 3:3-6). And the same gospel tells us how to do this (read Jn. 1:12). Inclusion into God's new family is not something you get from your parents or from religious effort. It is a gift that God gives to everyone who receives Christ.

Paul emphasizes this same point in 5:17 ("those who receive"). Have you made this choice? You can do this today by simply calling out to God and saying: "Please adopt me into your family so I can have your life, your acceptance, and so you can make me righteous."


1 Bertrand Russell, Has Man a Future? (Harmondsworth: Penguin Press, 1961), p. 110.

2 "Every baby starts life as a little savage. He is completely selfish and self-centered. He wants what he wants when he wants it--his bottle, his mother's attention, his playmate's toy, his uncle's watch. Deny these things and he seethes with rage and aggressiveness, which would be murderous were he not so helpless . . . He has no morals, no knowledge, no skills. This means that all children, not just certain children, are born delinquent. If permitted to continue in the self-centered world of his infancy, given free reign to his impulsive actions, to satisfy his wants, every child would grow up a criminal, a thief, a killer, a rapist." (Minnesota Crime Commission, cited in You And Your Child, Charles Swindoll [Nelson Publishers, 1977], pp. 33,34.)

Copyright 1999 Gary DeLashmutt