Three Great Contrasts – Romans 5:12-17

We are in Romans Chapter 5, and I am so excited for these verses. I am excited because I understand them now. I have read them over and over and trying to punch on them and probe, and am glad to be able to have them in focus. I am going to begin by reading this, and I probably need to begin just with a word of prayer too, so let me just begin with prayer. Father, thank You for letting us gather this morning and thank You for the food that we have already had, and we know it’s come from You and we now want living bread for our souls. We pray that You would feed us the truth of Your word, and that as we take in Your word, that you would nurture us and cause our spiritual muscles to grow and to be developed so that we can be strong in the faith. We need strong doctrine to have strong faith, and so I pray that this morning you would bring that to pass. I pray for those who are watching by way of livestream. I pray that they will feel a part of this study and that you will minister to them wherever they are around the world. And in whatever set of circumstances they find themselves, may they draw great encouragement and strength today from this study. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.


Romans Chapter 5. Today we want to look at verses 15 through 17, and it may seem like we are on a little bit of a snail’s pace, but these verses, I’m telling you, are so rich and profound that you just can not hydroplane over them and bounce on to the next verses. This is a Bible study, and so in a Bible study, we study the Bible. That means we have to dig down into the text, and it’s worth the effort. As we say in football, “No pain, no gain,” and the same is true in Bible study. If you want a superficial Bible study, then you will have a superficial faith; and if you want to have a strong, deep faith, then you have to go down deep into the word of God. We are going to have to linger here just for a little bit, but we are in verses 15 through 17. Just to remind you, the larger context is dealing with justification.


When we get to Chapter 6, we are going to be moving to sanctification, which is our progressive growth in grace. But we are still in the section on justification and our being declared righteous by God the Father on the basis of the merit and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. We are still laying this cornerstone. Verse 15 begins, “But the free gift is not like the transgression,” and I want to draw your attention to “not like”. I’ve drawn a circle around it in my Bible. “For if by the transgression of the one, the many died.” Now, these next two words – I’m trying to circle around these next two words – “much more did the grace of God and the gift of the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many.” That is the other important word: abound. There are five key words, and we are going to come back to this.


Now, verse 16: “The gift is not like” – and I’m trying to circle around not like – that which came through the one man 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.” There is a lot packed in there. Now, verse 17: “For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one much more,” and you can just draw a circle around much more. “Those who receive the abundance” – draw a circle around abundance – “the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the one Jesus Christ.”


There is a lot packed in here, and this is why we just can not hit this like a speed bump and just hydroplane over it. I mean we have to pull over, and park, and look at this. Now, last time at the end of verse 14, we read that Adam is a type of him who was to come. Adam and Jesus parallel each other. Adam acted on behalf of all humanity and became a type, meaning a pattern, a model of the one who is to come, who is Jesus Christ. Now, as soon as Paul says this, lest we think that Adam and Christ in this parallel type are on the same level, Paul goes off for three verses – it’s like a parentheses and he’s – he can’t just leave this on the table for us to think, “All right. Adam and Jesus: okay, equal footing.” In verses 15 through 17, he actually draws a contrast between Adam and Jesus, which is interesting after he just said they are alike. He now says, no, they are not alike. He will say that Jesus is much more than Adam. He accomplished much more than Adam.


There are five key words here that I really want to draw your attention to that will unlock our understanding of these somewhat dense verses. The first two words are ‘not like’ in verse 15. He says ‘not like’ at the very beginning: “But the free gift is not like the transgression.” At the beginning of verse 16, “The gift is not like.” Paul is deliberately wanting us to know that, although Adam is a type of him who is to come, they are alike in that they both represented a large group of people and what they did affected that whole group. Nevertheless, they are not alike. They are alike – they are alike, but not alike. Now, the next two words, and I have already drawn this to your attention, is in the middle of verse 15 and the middle of verse 17, ‘much more’. They’re not alike and Jesus is much more than Adam. He accomplished much more than Adam, and that is going to be very important to us, because here is the point: we gained more in Christ than we lost in Adam. As much as Adam sunk our ship, Jesus did more than just raise the ship. Jesus, by His obedience to the will of God, has done more than just bring us back up to the surface. I mean he has in essence elevated us all the way to heaven. So much more.



The other key word that I just want you to know by way of introduction is at the end of verse 15, and it is the word abound; and in the middle of verse 17, abundance. The idea there is really super abound to an excess, to a surplus – that Christ has provided far more grace than the guilt we have incurred from Adam. He will say in verse 20, and we will get to that– he says at the end of verse 20 where sin increase, grace abounded all the more. This is really good news; really good news.


Verse 12 – you will note at the end of verse 12, in your translation there’s a long dash. Do you see that? That means the long dash was not in what Paul wrote. That’s a translator’s addition. There’s no punctuation in the original language. It is supplied to help us now as English readers get in the brain and in the mind of Paul as he’s laying out this case. He comes in verse 12 – you see the just as? “Therefore, just as…” This sentence is supposed to end, “…even so.” “Just as; even so,” but there is no even so, and we do not get to the even so until really verses 18 and 19 when he finishes his train of thought. Verses 15 through 17 is like an excursion. It’s like a parenthesis. Okay? Now, verses 13 and 14 is the first parenthesis that explains verse 12, and we looked at that last time. Now, verses 15 through 17, if you’re ready for this, is a parenthesis inside of a parenthesis; and verses 15 through 17 explains the end of verse 14.


Paul is making – he makes a statement in verse 12, and then in verses 13 and 14 he just hits the pause button. Sometimes like we do in a conversation, we just go off. That is what Paul is doing here in verse 13 and 14. He is like, “I need to explain some things before I move any further,” and he gets to the end of verse 14 and he goes, “Well, I need to explain what I just explained,” and so that is where we are in verse 15 through 17. He will pick it back up in verse 18 and 19 and complete the sentence of verse 12. What verses 15 through 17 is – and I’m explaining all this, just because I am so excited to kind of unravel the mystery here. Fifteen through seveteen that we are looking at this morning is the explanation of Adam is a type of him who is to come, but it is like Paul just immediately said, “Not so fast. I don’t want you to think they’re on the same level, because there’s a great contrast to Adam and Christ in what they have accomplished.”


Let us now look at this, and there are three contrasts. In fact I’ve titled this study Three Great Contracts. One is in verse 15, the second is in verse 16, and the third is in verse 17. Paul is very methodical, he is very logical, he is very linear here, if you will.


I.               DEATH AND GRACE  


The first great contrast is in verse 15, and it’s the contrast between death and grace. Death and grace. So verse 15 begins, “But,” and that word ‘but’ really ought to capture your attention. That’s one of the most important words in the entire Bible. I mean ‘but’ should just scream for your attention. When you read an epistle and you come across the word ‘but’, that means Paul did not just tap on the brakes. He is standing on the brakes and this now needs to have some explanation. “But the free gift,” referring to the salvation that is ours in Christ – and this free gift really refers to verses six through 11. Pauls’ just bringing everything forward. This free gift is how we were justified in verse nine, how we were reconciled in verse 10, how we were reconciled in verse 11. That is the free gift. The free gift is not like the transgression.


Now, please note Paul does not use the word sin that he used in verse 12. He now calls it transgression, and the word transgression means a false step in the wrong direction. It means to stumble and fall, because you have left the path. You have heard of this expression the fall of mankind, the fall of Adam, the fall of the human race when we refer to original sin. It is this word transgression where we get the idea fall. It means that Adam was walking along the path as God wanted him to when suddenly he just left the tracks. When he saw that forbidden fruit and his wife handed it to him, hey, he just literally tripped and went headlong into a fall. He did more than trip. He went headlong off the ledge and he pulled every one of us with him. It’s like he was the engine and we were all the box cars, and the engine left the track and he just pulled the entire human race with him, and we went crashing down.


Now, some theologians see it just simply as Adam stubbed his toe and very little effect on us, and there are a lot Arminian Bible teachers who do not understand what this is teaching, that Adam literally went headlong down into spiritual death and he pulled the whole train with him, and we went cascading down. Verse 15, “The free gift is not like the transgression, for if by the transgression of the one” – that refers to Adam’s original sin when he took that fruit that God said, “You shall not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil,” and that was so gracious of God, because God did not want evil inside Adam’s brain and inside of his thought patterns. You just need to stay pure and clean. You do not need evil in side of you. Adam took it, that transgression. Look at the result. The many died, and the verb tense there on died mean we all died at once before we were even conceived. Before we were even born, we had already died. We came into this world already dead.


This is the reason why infants die. This is the reason why there are miscarriages. This is the reason why some babies are born stillborn. Death is already in the womb before any – that person has done anything, performed any act, said anything, did not say anything, done anything, did not do anything. Adam’s sin has already brought death, and this happened the moment Adam died. We were all doomed to death, however many thousands of years ago that was. That’s how drastic of a situation the world was. He says, “For it is by the transgression of the one the many died,” and the many here refer to everyone whom Adam was representing as their federal head, as their federal representative, and that was the entire human race. Every single person who would ever be conceived in their mother’s womb, whether or not they were ever delivered, death across the board. Devastating. If you weaken at this point, your theology is going to be so off the rails that you are going to be wrong about 30 other places in doctrine. You have to be right here.


Notice how verse 15 continues: “Much more.” Now, that’s very interesting. “Much more did the grace of God,” referring to the salvation, justification, reconciliation, “and the gift by the grace of the one man Jesus Christ abound to the many.” Now, let me tell you what is going on here. Adam started out at ground zero. God told him, “You may not eat from this fruit,” and there was a probationary period – we don’t know how long it would have been – to see if Adam will obey God. If he will obey God, then God will confirm eternal life. Adam disobeyed. He sinned and he threw us all into sin. Now, we need more than forgiveness. Forgiveness is only half the story in salvation. If the preacher only preaches forgiveness of sin, he only has one side of the blade of the two-edged sword.

All forgiveness does is wipe away the debt that’s been incurred, but all that does is bring your checking account back to zero. You have to have a positive deposit into your account to go to heaven. I have told you before zeros do not go to heaven. Adam started out at zero. He sinned. He goes bankrupt. God now must, even with Adam as well as with us, do more than just wipe the debt clean. There has to be now deposits of righteousness into Adam’s account and into our account in order to find acceptance with God in heaven. If all we have is forgiveness, all that does is just bring the checking account back to zero. There has to be the positive acquisition of righteousness, so that is why he says in verse 15, “much more.” There had to be much more than the removal of the transgression. There had to be an abounding of more than just forgiveness, and that is implied in these words much more and abound, and he will tell us at the end of verse 17.


Do you see in verse 17 the gift of righteousness? Do you see that? Forgiveness deals with the negative side of salvation. Righteousness deals with the positive side of righteousness. It is the heads and tails of the same coin. You have to have not only your sins taken away. That’s only half the story. You also have to have a positive righteousness to find acceptance with God in heaven, and that’s what justification provides: the positive deposit, the positive imputation of the righteousness of Jesus Christ to the account of everyone who believes in Him. That is why we are saying we gain more in Christ than we lost in Adam. If we only gain in Christ what we lost in Adam, we’re just back to where Adam started. We have to have more than where Adam started.


The contrast you see in verse 15, death, that’s one side, but on the other side is the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul is making this contrast. Yes, Adam and Jesus are alike in one sense, but they’re not alike in another sense. In this other sense, Adam brought death to every one of us. Christ has brought more than just forgiveness. He has brought the grace of righteousness to us. That is the first contrast. Remember I said three great contrasts?




Now, in verse 16 he gives the second contrast between Adam and Jesus, and it is the contrast between condemnation and justification. You will see it here in verse 16. He begins verse 16, the gift referring to the gift of forgiveness and righteousness. The gift is “not like”– that’s how he began the previous verse: “not like”.


He does it again in verse 16: not like. If you want to emphasize something in the original language, you put it at the beginning of the sentence to just get everyone’s attention. It is like putting it on the front porch. As soon as you walk into the house, there it is. You are looking at it as you walk in. “The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned,” and the word sinned means to miss the mark; like aiming an arrow at a target and it just totally goes haywire and does not even come close to hitting the target. That is what the word sin is. You totally missed the mark of the glory of God, the holiness of God, the commandments of God. Adam sinned. “For on the one hand” – and so he’s making this comparison here. “On the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation,” and this judgment is the divine verdict upon sin. It is the judge’s gavel coming down and the judgment of God coming down hard, because God is a holy God. The judgment is upon not just Adam, but the entire human race that Adam represented.


On the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression. You say, “Wow. Why judgment of the entire human race on just one transgression?” Because God is perfectly holy and one sin against a perfectly holy God is more than enough to sentence anyone to eternal damnation. It’s like this 51:49, the scales, and like how good do you have to be to go to heaven. One sin is enough to damn a human soul to hell forever. Adam was representing all of us at the same time. His one sin against a perfectly holy God was more than enough to bring the judgment of God down, and the judgment of God was condemnation. The judgment means to render the verdict, and the verdict was condemnation. If there is no grace, it will result in eternal damnation. It shows how serious it is to be right with God.


“So on the one hand, the judgment arose from the one transgression resulting in condemnation.” It always results in condemnation. In Romans 6:23, the wages of sin is death. I think so many times we fail to realize just how holy God is and just how sinful we are. Notice in verse 16, “But on the other hand, the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification.” Now, just to remind you, justification is where God does not make us righteous; He declares us to be righteous. Sanctification will be how He progressively over our entire Christian life will make us more and more and more practically righteous. In the act of justification, God simply pronounces, declares, charges to the account of, imputes to the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ.


Adam’s one act brought condemnation to every one of us around this table; every single one of us. Jesus’s act has removed the many transgressions and has brought righteousness to everyone who will believe in Him. That is the second contrast that Paul is making, and Paul is just so careful in his teaching that, after he says, “Adam is a type of Him who is to come,” he in essence is saying this: I need to clarify that. Theologians always clarify things, and Paul is clarifying here. Now, in verse 17 is the last contrast to show us that Adam and Christ, though they are alike, they are nevertheless not alike in what they accomplished. It is the contrast between the reign of death and the reign of life. Now, that’s a big contrast.




Verse 17, “For if by the transgression of the one,” that would be Adam, “death reigned through the one,” and death became such a cruel monarch who reigned ruthlessly over the human race and has brought sin, and sadness, and sickness, and suffering, and physical death, spiritual death, eternal death. Sin is no friend to anyone around this table. A friend of sin is your avowed enemy, and death reigns in this world through Adam’s sin, and that’s just the way that it is. You want to know what’s wrong with the world? This is what is wrong with the world. You want to know what’s wrong with every one of us? This is what is wrong.


In the middle of verse 17, “much more those who receive the abundance of grace,” and grace here is representing really just the entirety of the salvation that is ours through the gospel of Jesus Christ. It includes propitiation, reconciliation, redemption, justification, union with Christ, communion with Christ, adoption with Christ. It is the whole package of salvation is bound up in this grace, the abundance of grace and of the gift. He uses “gift” here to remind us that we receive this gift with the empty hand of faith. We bring nothing to the table. We have nothing to offer God. I mean we are spiritually bankrupt paupers who have nothing in our account to withdraw to bring in our hands before God. It is just the gift of righteousness, and this righteousness refers to justification, because in justification, God declares us to be righteous. He says, “The gift of righteousness will reign in life through the one Jesus Christ.”


You and I have passed out of the reign of death and we have entered into the reign of life. We have gone from darkness to light; we have gone from death to life. It could not be any greater juxtaposition than what we have experienced. These are the great contrasts. Now, before I open it up for our discussion, I just want to nail down a few more theological points here with you, and we are in the deeply theological portion of the Book of Romans, and I mean this is what puts meat on your bones is strong doctrine. A couple things to mention: number one is the historicity of Adam. Adam was not a mythological figure. Adam was not an imaginary person. There is no such thing as evolution. That is off the table. God created the first man and everything began with the first man, Adam. If you equivocate on the historicity of Adam – meaning he was a real person created in the image of God, that God breathed life into him – then the whole argument of justification, redemption, reconciliation, propitiation, everything comes crashing down, which is why the devil is always trying to promote this false teaching of evolution.


Listen, just mark it down. If there was ever a time when there was nothing, then there would be nothing right now, because out of nothing, nothing comes. There had to be God, and God created the heavens and the earth in six consecutive days. That’s just what the text says. On the sixth day, he created Adam, and it – this whole argument is built on two men: the first Adam and the second Adam. The first Adam, the real Adam who was married to a real woman named Eve; and then the second man, Jesus Christ. This is another reason why Jesus had to come in the flesh. There had to be the incarnation. I mean this would make a great Christmas message, that Jesus had to step into the human race in order to undo what the first man did. He couldn’t just snap his fingers in heaven. He actually had to come down and get into our skin. He had to enter into the human race to undo what the first man did. If you remove the reality of the first man, you remove the necessity of the incarnation and Christ becoming a man. In these verses, it clearly states the man Christ Jesus.


Look in verse 15. “By” – at the end of verse 15, “By the grace of the one man Jesus Christ.” Why would he say the one man? Why didn’t he just say Jesus Christ? Because he is emphasizing something. He’s emphasizing the humanity of Christ, which is absolutely necessary to undo what the first man did. It’s two men. That is the first theological doctrine that we see here that we have to embrace. I can give you more reasons. When you read Luke 3:38, the genealogy of the human race, the thing ends up with Adam, the son of Adam after going through all of these people. You just can not go “people, people, person, person, person, person, person, person,” and all of a sudden go “myth.”


You are so inconsistent, you are a walking contradiction. No, person, person, person, person ends up person. Also, in Matthew 19:4, Jesus, as he teaches on divorce and remarriage, bases his whole argument that God – from the very beginning, God made them male and female. The whole argument is based on that it was a real man that got married to a real woman, and God performed the service in the Garden of Eden. God tied the knot. That was not a figment of someone’s imagination. You are also going to be undermining the institution of marriage as well to remove the historicity of Adam. There are a lot of chips on the table here, and so we just can not carelessly say, “Well, you know, it just seems like to me that ought to be just kind of a fictitious story.” Well, you just bargained away more than you realize. It is critically important, the historicity of Adam.


The second main doctrine here that we just have to have some meat on our bones spiritually is the federal headship of Adam and Jesus. We have to not only understand it, we have to believe it. It is clearly taught in scripture that Adam acted for all humanity and Jesus acted for a new humanity. What Adam did effected the whole human race; what Jesus did effected the new race of believers in Jesus Christ. And just another little theological point here, the too many, M-A-N-Y, are two different groups. The many that Adam represented was every single person who would ever be conceived in their mother’s womb. The many that Jesus represented were all who would believe in Him, all the elect of God. If you say that Jesus represented the entire human race, then you have just taught universalism and that Jesus now is justifying the entire human race, and Jesus has emptied hell. To keep this parallel clear, the many of Adam is the entire human race; the many of Jesus are all His people, all who are in Christ. That is who he represented.


Now, the third thing, again, is this doctrine of imputation, and RC Sproul, who is has said, “You know, we just can’t keep calling ourselves evangelicals, because that’s such a wide spectrum – a wide swath that, within evangelicalism, there’re so many crazy different things that people say they believe.” And so RC said, “From now on we are going to be called Imputationists.”


Imputation – Adam’s sin imputed to the entire human race, charged to our account. Our sin imputed to Jesus Christ. He bore our sins upon the cross, and Jesus’s righteousness imputed us. We talked about this last week and I know I’m repeating that, but as we pass through this section, we have to understand imputation, to be credited to the account of. Then also we see here the fall of Adam and the human race, a big time fall into death. Now, death means something, not that we just fall into sickness. We didn’t fall into having the sniffles. We fell into death, and this death is immediate spiritual death. Remember what God said? “And the day that you eat of this fruit, you shall surely die?” and Adam continued to live? Oh, let me tell you, he died the moment he took a bite out of that fruit. He died spiritually, and there was now a severance between him and God, and he suddenly realized he was naked and he had to cover himself. There was an immediate spiritual death and it was the beginning of a progressive physical death, and the aging process immediately began. He would eventually die physically, but that process began the second he sinned.


Then if it had not been for the grace of God to cover him with that animal covering, a foreshadowing of the lamb of God that would take away the sine of the world, it would have brought about the third death: spiritual death, physical death, eternal death. The second death, which would be confinement in hell, eternal punishment, ever perishing yet never perishing. The fall of Adam was huge. Again, by way of analogy, it was a fall. He didn’t stub his toe.

He went down and he took us all down into the grave of death such that when he bore his children, Cain and Able, they were born with his sin nature. It says in Genesis 5:1, I think it is, “Adam gave birth to a son in his image.” You remember Adam was made in the image of God? Now Adam has a son in his own image, in his own likeness. Think about this: mind, affections, and will. His children and everyone who’s been born since were born with a mind in darkness: cannot see the truth, cannot know God, born in the ignorance of darkness. The affections also greatly affected, the heart defiled; but more than that, the will now is dead towards God. It is the Biblical teaching of the bondage of the will.


Now, if you believe in the fall, you believe in the bondage of the will. It is all a package deal. If you think Adam merely slipped and became sick, then the will can still be active towards God. If you believe he fell into death, then even the will is dead. The gravity of what is being said here is enormous. Then the last theological point that I wanna make here – and this section is just so rich in theology, and I know we need to get to the application. But we are just trying – we are just pouring concrete into the foundation and we have to have a sturdy foundation. This idea of the abundance of grace, that we now have received through Christ such a surplus and such an excess of grace that we have gained far, far more in Christ than we have ever lost in Adam. It is good news.


We are not just brought back up to ground zero and now we have to live up to a certain standard, like where Adam was to see if we get in. No, the whole thing has been covered in Christ by Christ, so we are now completely justified before God, so this is liberating. I am excited just to sink my teeth into these verses and to sort this out in my own mind and in my own heart, and I hope for each of us this morning – I hope in a sense that this is eye-opening. I am sure in one sense I have not said anything that you did not already know, but maybe you now see in these verses the truth that you already knew, but you see how it’s laid out in Paul’s argument.


When we pick it back up in verse 18, it is actually completing the thought of verse 12 where the long dash is at the end of verse 12. Paul has flashes of genius that even as he brings truths up, he is so out ahead of everything that he is clarifying and explaining things, and he is even explaining his explanation and clarifying what he has clarified even with a parenthesis inside of a parenthesis so that he can be crystal clear in what he is teaching. Having said that, we have got 10 minutes here. Let me just open this up, and I don’t even know what question to ask you other than just jump in and comment on what, out of this that we have looked at, is a game-changer for you, has great impact and influence in your thinking. What of this tightens your thinking? What of this changes your thinking or even how you live? That’s just hugely open-ended. Yes?



Male:                           What would you say – without getting in an argument with this other person, they were making the comment that people who are living in sin, right, either through homosexuality, or having an affair, or whatever they’re doing, at one time in their life they had accepted Christ as their Lord and savior, and they still proclaim it. Okay? But they’ve got an addiction of sin, okay? And so I mean how would you handle that?


I would say – obviously I would need more information. I can only make a categorical response, meaning a generalized response. I would say they have never been converted, and that they are still under the reign of death, and they have never entered into the reign of life, and they still have the old master of sin dominating their life, and that they have not begun with a new master, the Lord Jesus Christ. Where we will eventually get to in the first of the year is justification is inseparably connected to sanctification. Everyone who is justified immediately begins the process of sanctification. Now, that does not mean that you can never sin. That does not mean that sin could never establish some kind of a beach hold in a particular area of your life. However, it does mean that there will be the break of the reign of sin in that person’s life. Sin will still be present, but it will no longer be president.


You are under new management now and you are taking new orders from a new master, and if Jesus really is your new master, you are going to obey him. If you’re living in just open disobedience to your new – to supposedly your new master, this is telling me there’s a strong case to be made you still are working for your old master, which is sin. Now, let me just give you a verse. Romans 6 in verse 16, just to get ahead of ourselves, verse – Romans 6:16, we’ll let Paul answer this, “Do you not know.” Now, as soon as he says that, that means, “Hey, if you’re breathing, you know this.” Okay. This is Kindergarten. This is Christianity 101. This is so basic. Paul begins, “Do you not know? Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey?”

© 2019 Steven J. Lawson