The Letter to the Romans



18. What Reigns in You


Romans 5:12-20


Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned-for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come.

But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God's grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! Again, the gift of God is not like the result of the one man's sin. The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.

Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.

The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.


Key Phrases

Death reigned fromAdam toMoses


Those who receive God'sprovisionreign


Sin reigned in death


Grace might reign through righteousness



In this passage Paul is comparing and contrasting Adam, the symbol of man's condemnation, with Jesus, the symbol of man's forgiveness and justification. He begins with a statement of humanity's condemnation to death as a result of Adam's primeval sin. He ends with a statement of righteousness being made available to everyone as a result of Jesus' singular obedience to his Father: death on the cross.

1. Because of Adam, none of us starts life with a clean slate; we are born with sinful natures. What does this fact imply about the natural condition of humanity? (see v. 18-19; Genesis 8:21; Psalm 51:5; 58:3; Jeremiah 17:9; Matthew 15:19; Romans 1:21; Ephesians 2:3)


2. Verses 13 and 14 state that death reigned in the world from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even though there was no law. Yet these verses also state that people living during that era did not break a command, nor were sins counted against them because there was no law. Why, then, was humanity during that time condemned to death? (see verse 12, 15, 16, 17; 1 Corinthians 15:21-22)


3. If there was no law before Moses, what command did Adam break which the rest of humanity did not break? (see Genesis 3:1-7; 17)


4. How does Romans 5:12-14 stand in opposition to what many of us were taught about sin and the eternal role and existence of the law?


5. Of whom was Adam a pattern, and how are they similar and different? (see verse 18; 1 Corinthians 15:22; 45-49)


6. Verse 17 contrasts the two legacies: death from Adam and life from Christ. Paul makes a significant distinction, however, when he contrasts death reigning through one man and those who receive righteousness reigning in life. In the first case, death reigns. In the second case, those who receive life reign. What does Paul mean when he says those who receive grace will reign in life through Jesus? (see John 10:10; Daniel 7:27; 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 20:4-6; 22:5)


7. Verses 18-19 state that one man's disobedience resulted in all humans being condemned sinners. They also say that the obedience of one man resulted in many becoming righteous. What do these two ideas of Adam's universal sin and Christ's once-for-all sacrifice say about the nature of man, God's sovereignty, and about the idea that God is fair and will explain himself to the watching, critical universe?


8. If sin was present before the law and people were guilty from birth, what was the purpose of God's giving the law? (see Romans 3:20; Romans 7:7-13; Galatians 3:19-25)


9. If the law increased sin by bringing God's demands to the attention of spiritually dead people, how did this phenomenon increase God's grace? (see Romans 7:4-6; 10:4; Galatians 3:22-25;1 Timothy 1:15-17)


10. Although Paul is comparing the reigns of sin and grace in verse 21, the prepositions and the structure of the comparison create a contrast. Sin reigned in death; grace reigns through righteousness. What is significant about grace reigning through righteousness instead of in righteousness? (see Romans 1:17; 3:20-24; 4:13; 10:3-4; 14:23; 15:13)



11. What effect has the law had on your life?


12. How has grace affected your life?


13. Is sin or grace reigning in your life? God is calling you to surrender yourself to him and to exchange your state of death for his righteousness. Ask him to open your heart to the grace of his love and to give you a new heart that honors him instead of vainly protecting your own ego. Ask him to transform you with truth.

Copyright (c) 2004 Graphics Studio, Redlands, CA USA. All rights reserved. Posted April 17, 2004.
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