Go back in your Bibles to Romans chapter 5, and I’ll remind you of what we read earlier in this service. Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” It was definitely a cross of love.
There are so many facets of the cross. There are so many angles, so many perspectives regarding the death of Christ. But one that is powerful, if it’s understood, is laid out for us in the portion of Scripture I read to you earlier, and it is the comparison between Adam and his impact, and Christ and His impact. The reason this comparison even comes up in the book of Romans is because a question arises as Paul presents the gospel, and the question is this: When he speaks about the death of Christ being all that is necessary for our salvation, having been validated by His resurrection, the question that immediately follows that is, “How could an act by one man have such a massive effect on so many people throughout all of human history?” That’s the question.
The Christian gospel says Christ died for the sins of the world. How could any act that any one person did affect so many? And Paul answers that by bringing up the impact of Adam. If you look back at chapter 5 and verse 12 you read, “Through one man sin entered . . . the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.” What Paul is saying there is that we were represented by Adam, and because he sinned that one sin, the entire human race was impacted. Adam by one act impacted forever the entire human race. And that is Paul’s example of the fact that the act of one person can have a massive effect on many others. Adam’s one sin caused all in the human race to be born into corruption and death and judgment. And as one act by one man cursed all of humanity, so one act by the Lord Jesus Christ causes all who are in Him to be raised to righteousness and eternal life. All who are in Adam when Adam sinned died; all who are in Christ when Christ died are impacted by the one act of each man.
Go down to verse 15, and let me take you through this in a way that I hope will encourage you. You will notice several times in this passage the phrase “much more.” It’s in verse 9, “much more.” It’s in verse 10, “much more.” It’s in verse 15, “much more.” It’s in verse 17, “much more.” It’s in verse 20, “all the more.” What that is all saying is that while Adam had an effect, Christ had much more of an impact. That’s the comparison.
So let’s see that comparison unfold, starting in verse 15: “But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. The gift is not like that which came through the one 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. For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.
“So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous. The Law came in so that transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
This is an amazing, powerful comparison. Paul is going to show us that one man’s acts can affect everyone, as illustrated by Adam. What Adam did affected people disastrously; what Christ did affects them blessedly.
Now Paul uses contrasts here, and they have some distinctions, but they’re a little overlapping. I’m not going to take a lot of time, but I want you to see them because I want you to come to the Lord’s Table tonight with a rich understanding of the wondrous work that He did at the cross.
The first contrast is as to the effectiveness of each man’s act: the effectiveness of Adam’s offense compared to the effectiveness of Christ’s gift. And verse 15 lays that out: “The free gift is not like the transgression.” There’s a great distinction. This is the first “much more” distinction. “For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many.”
“The free gift is not like the transgression,” meaning the free gift that came through the death and resurrection of Christ is not like the transgression in Adam. “Transgression,” strong word, paraptōma, meaning a full deviation, a trespass, an offense against God. It was a powerful thing because as a result of it, Paul says, “Many died”—“many.”
The “many” is also the “all.” If you go down further in the passage, you’ll see in a few moments, he uses “all.” Here he uses “many” and “many,” and later “all” and “all” in order to make his comparisons clear. As a result of Adam, “many died.” How many? All who were in Adam. As a result of the charisma, the grace gift, the righteous act of Christ, many received forgiveness. How many? All who were in Christ. All who were in Adam died by virtue of his deed; all who are in Christ live eternally by virtue of what Christ did.
Now how is the effectiveness of each act by one’s—one man different, clearly, distinctively different? “By the transgression of [Adam]”—what does it say in verse 15? They died. They died. The sin of Adam killed the human race. The one sin of that first man became the ground for the death of all human beings, and we know that because everybody dies. The “many” in verse 15 in the comparison is the “all” in verse 18, where you have the condemnation of all men compared to the justification of all men. In the case of the many, it’s all; and in the case of the all in verse 18, it’s many. You have to nuance your understanding of those terms.
Well we do know that the sin of Adam killed the human race. And for the sake of analogy, Paul keeps his comparisons “many, many,” “all, all,” even though it is, in the truest sense, all who died, and only many who live in Christ. For the sake of comparison he uses those two terms interchangeably. The parallelism here is laid out in one statement in 1 Corinthians 15:22, “As in Adam all died, so in Christ shall all be made alive.” All who were in Adam died; all who are in Christ—in His death—were made alive. The sin of Adam polluted all his posterity in sin and guilt and ruin and judgment, the whole represented by Adam as the head, and the consequences of his sin were on all his progeny—all who were, as it were, represented by Adam.
“Much more,” “much more.” Jesus Christ does “much more.” If the effect of Adam’s sin was death, the “much more” is, the effect of Christ’s work is life. The evil gift of Adam is death; the grace gift of Christ is life. Therefore, this is “much more.” Christ is more powerful to save than Adam was to ruin. Adam had the power to kill; “much more,” Christ has the power to make alive. And Paul piles up his expressions regarding the much more in verse 15. It is “much more . . . grace of God.” It is the gift of grace. It is, in verse 17 again, “the abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness.” This is the “much more.” By one man everyone died; by one Man everyone in Christ receives eternal life.
And you have to notice that at the end of verse 15 it says, “This gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounds to many,” abounds. He’s using language here that is superlative. It’s over and above. It excels. It’s better than, superior than, more than. And it’s a way of saying that the evil from Adam has been more than conquered, more than neutralized. It has been completely overpowered, completely canceled. In Christ, all who are His receive righteousness, holiness, reconciliation to God, and eternal life.
Paul said to Timothy, and this is a way to understand it, that in the Christ, He abolished death and brought forth life and immortality. Sin in Adam destroyed by death; grace in Christ blesses by life. It’s destruction or blessing. It’s eternal death or eternal life. Yes, the impact of one act by one person. Adam’s effect can be nullified. All who are in Christ have that nullified. Christ’s effect can never be nullified because He purchased for us eternal life. So the effect of what Christ has done far surpasses far beyond the damage that Adam did.
A second comparison is also one that looks at the actual extent of the distinctions between the two. Let me have you look at that in verse 16: “The gift”—that is the gift of salvation in Christ—“is not like that”—and here he says it again—it’s “not like”—again, as in verse 15—“is not like that which came through the one 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.”
So first of all, there’s a huge distinction between an act that brings death to everyone and an act that brings life to everyone. Here he says it another way: Adam produced condemnation; Christ produced justification. That’s back to verse 16—what is meant by “the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation.”
Not only did Adam’s act sentence us to sin and corruption, but it resulted in condemnation. But on the other hand, what Christ did resulted in justification. Condemnation is to be declared unrighteous; justification is to be declared righteous. Condemnation came by one’s sin, Adam; justification came by one Savior. You could say it this way: Condemnation came by one sin committed by Adam; justification cancels millions of sins. The one transgression demanded the condemnation of all, nothing less, but the free gift of justification is of such massive character and nature that it operates with regard to all the sins of all those who are in Christ.
One sin in Adam damns the human race; one righteous sacrifice by Christ forgives the numberless sins of all who are in Christ. Condemnation determined by one sin; justification determined by one sacrifice for sin. Condemnation makes everyone guilty; justification makes everyone righteous. Grace is greater than all our sin, far greater. The damage that Adam did by one sin set loose millions and trillions of sins, but the one act of Jesus Christ covers those sins for all who are in Christ.
Just think about it this way. If the whole human race suffered death because of Adam’s sin and Christ bore the wrath of God for trillions and trillions of sins, how immense was that sacrifice, how immense was that sin-bearing, how incalculable was His suffering under the wrath of God. If just one sin was bad enough to damn the entire human race, what must be the horror of being punished for all the sins of all people who would ever believe, in one afternoon on a cross? The effectiveness of the two: Adam brought death; Christ brought life. The extent: Adam brought condemnation; Jesus brought justification.
Verse 17 looks at it again and says the same thing another way: If the transgression of the one brought death, “death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.” If the sin of one man made you a slave, the righteous act of another makes you a king. The distinction is great. If what Adam did put you in bondage to sin, what Christ did gave you a throne in His kingdom.
The results of the grace gift and righteousness completely overpower the results of sin. Sin in Adam set us against God, and death reigned over us. Righteousness in Christ set us right with God, and we reign over sin. We reign not only in the future, but we reign in life now because sin no longer had dominion over us.
This shows up in another contrast, this distinction, verses 18 and 19: “So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through the one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men.” And then this: “For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.” The contrasts are between life and death, and condemnation and justification, and now obedience and disobedience.
Disobedience corresponds to condemnation; obedience corresponds to justification. Adam disobeys, and down comes condemnation; Christ obeys, and down comes justification. “One man’s disobedience,” one man. One man, and his disobedience doesn’t appear to be a mortal sin—he ate something he wasn’t supposed to eat. But that was enough to make many sinners—the whole human race.
On the other hand, “the obedience of One,” willingness to go to the cross and be a sacrifice for sin, overpowered that disobedience, and the obedience of Christ made us righteous. Why? Because His obedience is imputed to us.
We’ve said this through the years: If you’re a believer, you sin was imputed to Christ on the cross and His righteousness was imputed to you, so that when God looks at you He sees Christ.
All Adam’s people are marked by disobedience; all Christ’s people are marked by obedience. One man, Adam; one Man, Christ. The whole human race falls into one of those two categories: They’re either in Adam or in Christ. In Adam, they are dead, and they are condemned, and they are disobedient. In Christ, they are alive, and they are justified, and they are covered by the very obedience of Christ as if it was their own righteousness.
There’s one more contrast, and that is the contrast between law and grace in verse 20: “The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.” In every case, Christ is “much more,” and in this case that is equally true. “The Law came in.” Did the Law produce righteousness? No, “the Law came in”—notice—“that the transgression would increase.” What is that saying? That is saying what it says back in verse 13: Until the Law was in the world, “sin is not imputed when there is no law.” In other words, if you don’t know what the commandments are, you don’t know when you’ve transgressed them. So the Law came in to increase transgression.
There was transgression all right—back in verse 14—between Adam and Moses, the time between Adam and the coming of the law. There was sin for sure; there was sin. But when the law came in, sin was clarified, sin was crystalized. The law came in for the sole purpose of defining God’s holy requirement. The law was never a tool a redemption, never a tool of salvation. In fact, look at it again: “The Law came in so that the transgression would increase.”
Paul says in Romans 7, “When I saw the law of God, though it was holy, just, and good, the law killed me.” And up to that time he was a Pharisee who thought he was pleasing God by his law-keeping. But when he saw the law of God for what it truly was, he realized that “by deeds of the Law no one could be justified.” Salvation is not by law or works. The law came so that transgression would increase.
What do you mean, to “increase”? Well, in two ways. One, so that we would be crystal clear as to what transgressions are; and secondly, the law not only shows us what is wrong, it actually incites us, it stimulates us, it excites us to sin. The law stirs up sin; that’s how rebellious the human heart is.
The law was never to impart righteousness, the law had become a tutor, Paul says to the Galatians, “to lead us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” You can’t be justified by the law; the law was to increase the character of sin, the reality of sin, the awareness of sin, the awareness of our propensity to sin, for us to face the fact that we are so easily excited and enticed to sin. That was the purpose of the law.
Something far greater than that was what grace did, verse 20, “Where sin increased, grace abounded.” Huperperisseuō, it’s a double-compound word meaning grace went far, far, far beyond what the law did, way, way over and above, vastly superior. The law could only increase sin; grace super-abundantly covered, forgave, and removed the guilt of sin. It abounded; it super-abounded. The law put our depravity on display. The law stimulated sin and then doomed the sinner because the law has no power to change the heart, and the sinner has no ability to keep the law perfectly.
Grace in Christ puts love and holiness on display, resulting in righteousness, because grace has the power to change the heart. So every way you look at it, what Christ did is much more than what Adam did. And yes, one man’s act can affect many. Adam’s did, and so did Christ’s.
Paul sums it up in verse 21, “So that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” That’s the summary: sin and death in Adam, grace and righteousness and life in Christ.
No wonder five times in this portion of Romans you see the phrase, “much more,” “much more,” “much more,” “much more,” “all the more”—because the sacrifice of Christ is so infinitely superior in its impact when compared to the sin of Adam. It’s stunning to think about the fact that what Adam unleased by his sin, the massive, massive incalculable amount of sin is literally punished in Christ at the cross. How could He absorb so much punishment? Because He’s an infinite person; I have no way to calculate it. But it’s no small wonder that in anticipation of that He said in the garden, “Let this cup pass from Me.” And it’s no small wonder that He said, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” His one act provides grace, righteousness, and eternal life.
As we come to the Lord’s Table, this would be a good time for you to spend a few minutes thanking the Lord in your own heart in prayer for the inconceivable sacrifice that He offered on the cross when He took the full fury of God for all the sins of His people. And Scripture says when you come to the Lord’s Table you should come circumspectly, thoughtfully, recognizing all the glory of the cross, recognizing the horror of your sin, contemplating what Christ did there. Jesus said we do this in remembrance of Him. The more you know about the cross, the more there is for you to remember, and therefore the more there is for you to express gratitude for. Let’s bow in prayer for a few moments.
Our Father, these are staggering realities. They’re true. They transcend our feeble minds to even grasp. Little wonder that we sing with all our hearts and souls, as the saints have always done, to offer praise to such a God as You are, who would do this for us. Lord Jesus Christ, we express the gratitude of our hearts to You for bearing our sins, for taking punishment for sins that we had not even committed because we weren’t even alive. But You knew them, and You bore the punishment for them all.
One act on the cross released all Your people from guilt, condemnation, eternal punishment. We rejoice in that. Help us tonight to contemplate it maybe in fresh ways that remind us of such love, such grace that must be appropriately appreciated. And the appreciation that You ask for is that we worship You and love You and serve You and obey You and do not sin against You. O Lord, guide us in the way of holiness, that we may never be bold sinners in the face of what we know You have done on our behalf. Remind us that the sins that we are yet to commit, You suffered for. And we thank You, Lord, for this gift of salvation.
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