Our Union with Adam

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.”

- Romans 5:12

As we return to our studies in Romans, we find Paul continuing to emphasize that justification is a sure and certain work, just as he did in 5:1–11. But he carries his argument to a deeper level in the last half of chapter 5, declaring that believers are secure because they are in “union with Christ.” This doctrine of the “mystical union” of Christ and Christians is not easy to understand, but Paul helps us to see how we are “in Christ” by first showing us how we are “in Adam.” He then goes on to show how the two unions, though similar, are also vastly different, and how our union with Christ is much superior, providing absolute security for all of God’s people.

Verse 12, which we are considering today, touches on Christianity’s answers to two of the most troublesome questions with which the human race must wrestle: “Why do all people sin?” and “Why do all people die?” Virtually no one would argue that people are perfect, and all agree that all die. But why is this? Paul tells us: It is because of what Adam did. Adam is the “one man” Paul speaks of in this verse. We know from the account of the fall of man in Genesis 3 that Adam disobeyed the sole command God gave him. His was the first sin; thus, “through one man sin entered the world.” That sin also brought death into the world, for death was the penalty God had assigned for disobedience. But the tragedy of Adam’s sin is revealed in the rest of verse 12: “thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.” As Paul will show in the verses to come, Adam stood as a representative for all mankind. His sin caused all of his descendants to be born “fallen,” that is, in rebellion against God. But his act of rebellion also brought guilt on all humanity. Paul has already discussed how God imputes the righteousness of Christ to believers. Now the Bible asserts that all people have undergone an imputation, the imputation of Adam’s sin. That made all people subject to the penalty of sin— death. Thus, we all sin and we all die because of Adam’s sin. In a sense, therefore, all people are “in Adam” or in “union with Adam.”

Paul does not immediately complete the thought he begins in verse 12. He breaks off to expand on the imputation of sin in verses 13–14, then examines the parallels between Adam and Christ in verses 15–17. We will consider these “parentheses” in our next two studies.

Coram Deo

Because Adam did not represent us well, we tend to grumble that God so worked. But we must be careful here, for our salvation is based on the perfect obedience of yet another representative—Christ. Continue to study through the verses to come with a prayerful attitude, asking God to help you grasp what His Word says about His ways.

Passages for Further Study

John 15:1–5
1 Corinthians 1:30
Galatians 2:20
Ephesians 2:19–21
Colossians 1:27

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