Second Reading: Romans 5:12-19

Out Of Our Present Morass

Have your been tempted with despair? Have you ever felt hopeless? What did you do about the situation?

Popular Translation

12 Through the action of one man, sin came into this world. And, through sin, death came into the world. Death spread like a disease to everyone, as everyone sinned. 13 Sin was in the world before the Law. But no one was charged with sin since there was no Law. 14 Death ruled from Adam to Moses. It also ruled over those who did not sin since the image of Adam’s sin existed. But, Adam himself was a image of the One who would come.

15 The gift of God’s grace is not like sin. If many died because of one man’s sin, how much greater will God’s grace and the grace of Jesus Christ be for these people. 16 God’s gift is not like the death that was caused by the sinner Adam. Everyone was condemned to death because of his sin. But, despite many sins, the gift of grace gives life before God. 17 If death ruled because of one man’s sin, how much more will the ones who receive grace and life before God now rule with one man, Jesus Christ. 18 So, just as everyone was condemned to death because of one bad act, everyone can receive God’s life because of one good act. 19 Through the disobedience of one man, many were judged as sinners. But, through the obedience of one man, many will be alive before God.

Literal Translation

12 Because of this, indeed through one man, sin came into the world and, through sin, death, and so among all men death spread, as whom all sinned. 13 For until the Law (existed), sin was in the world but (sin) was not (formally) charged, as there was no Law, 14 but death ruled (as a king) from Adam to Moses and upon the (ones) not having sinned (based) on the image of the transgression of Adam, who is an impression (made by a hammered stamp) of the (ONE) about to be.

15 But, the gift (of grace) is also thus not as the trespass. For if by the trespass of one many died, (how) much more does the grace of God and the grace of ONE MAN JESUS CHRIST (exceedingly) abound for many. 16 The gift (is) not as (that) through the one having sinned. Indeed, (there was) judgement for condemnation from one (trespass), but the gift of grace (gave) toward (the judgement) of righteousness, out of many trespasses. 17 For, if, in the trespass of the one, death ruled (as a king) through that one, (how) much more the (ones) receiving the abundance of grace and the (judgement of) righteousness in life will rule (as kings) through the ONE, JESUS CHRIST. 18 So, therefore, as (it came) upon all men into condemnation through one trespass, thus also (it came) upon all men into the rightness of life through one righteous act. 19 For, indeed, through the disobedience of one man, the many were appointed as sinners, so thus through the obedience of the ONE, the many will be appointed as righteous ones.

5:12 “as whom all sinned” can also be translated “because all sinned.” According to Paul, sin is the cause of death. But the text does not explain the relationship of sin and death with humanity. Is sin hereditary like death (i.e, “Original Sin”)? Or, is death present because humanity is steeped in sin and cannot escape the clutches of evil? The phrase “as whom all sinned” implies heredity. The phrase “because all sinned” implies the presence of incapacity of humanity to escape sin. The context favors heredity (as it is translated above).

5:13 “as there was no Law” is literally “not being of the Law.”

5:16 “(the judgment) of righteousness” The term “righteousness” has been translated “acquittal” by some, due to the legal analogy Paul used. However, the modern meaning of acquittal means freedom. The ancient meaning had much more nuance; it meant a return to position before the king and the royal court. Instead of condemnation as a traitor, a position of right standing was restored, including all benefits and prerogatives.

We’re all sinners and there doesn’t seem to be a way out. Fortunately, God always provides an escape hatch. When we trust God in the person of Jesus Christ, we find freedom from our lowly status. We find grace, that free gift of God’s very life!

Why do we have this freedom? Simply put, God decided to free us from a self-imposed situation. Humanity (found in its model Adam) wanted to play God, to control the situation, to experience the false fruit of evil. But God sent us a new model for humanity, a person who obeyed the Father. Through his faithfulness, we see life without evil. When we are one with him, we are free.

This was the insight of Paul in his letter to the Romans. Despite the repetitious, and even torturous language, Paul made his point clear. Sin was a reality that lead to death, the greatest evil. Humanity was awash in sin, a reality that spread like a disease. But this was not God’s intent. No, he wished life for his creation, a life with him. So, his gift was his life, a power so great it overcame evil and death. His gift can be found in his Son, Jesus.

Paul used legal language throughout this passage. In a royal court, the king would judge a person worthy or unworthy. The worthy stood before the king, in allegiance with the king. The worthy enjoyed the benefits from such standing. But the unworthy were condemned, removed from the presence of the king. Such removal meant a loss of status and favor. It meant others would ostracize the unworthy at best. At worst, the unworthy would be exiled (loss of community) or executed. Such was the power of the king.

As Paul saw the situation, sin enthroned death. The Grim Reaper was the monarch. He judged all unworthy and sentenced all to death. But, Paul saw the Risen Lord as the One who unseated death. In its place, God would reign. All who put their trust in God and his Son would be acquitted of death’s sentence. More important, they would be restored to a place in God’s royal court. They would enjoy the privileges and benefits of divine favor.

Faith in God gives us a new insight. There is a way out of our morass. Evil can be defeated, because already has been defeated. Despite the present outlook, the work of Christ gives us hope. He has been where we find ourselves now. And he can lead us to victory!

How does God give you hope? How does your faith in Christ comfort you in the dark times?