Calvary Road Baptist Church


Romans 5.18-21 

Let me establish some historical perspective for you who are a bit younger so you will get an idea how much our state and nation have ‘progressed’ over the last quarter century or so.

In 1991 the organization called “Queer Nation” marched and picketed in Sacramento to protest then-Governor Pete Wilson’s veto of a bill which would have made homosexuals a legally protected ethnic minority. Wilson’s reasoning, of course, was that it was already illegal to discriminate by race, religion, and national origin. But “Queer Nation” sought statutory legitimization of their lifestyle choices. Politicians capitulated and aren’t things wonderful now? How things have changed in Californication in the last twenty-five plus years. Of course, when “Queer Nation” marched and protested the leftists applauded. Free speech was wonderful for them at that time. But now we have a leftist organization funded by George Soros identified as Antifa protesting free speech at the University of California at Berkeley, the place where the so-called Free Speech Movement began back in 1964. So, free speech is good for some but not for others.

Also in 1991, the man nominated by President George H. W. Bush to replace Thurgood Marshall as an associate justice of the Supreme Court was charged by a woman named Anita Hill with using his position as a supervisor to harass a fellow worker sexually. Clarence Thomas rightly termed the assault on his character as a “high tech lynching” designed to block his admission to the Supreme Court because he was, horror of horrors to leftists, a conservative black judge. However, when liberal movie industry mogul Harvey Weinstein actually admits to a pattern of sexual harassment spanning decades, not only did sexual harassment attorney Gloria Allred’s daughter briefly sign on to represent Weinstein, but the entertainment industry is very quick to understand and forgive, with Weinstein explaining that his conduct was a reflection of the times he grew up in.[1] Incredible. To make sure everyone stays off his back, Weinstein promises, “I’ll fight the NRA to ‘channel’ my anger at myself for sexually harassing women.”[2] Really?

It has now been almost three decades, since what was then called the Iran-Iraq War, that a man now dead and in Hell, referred to as Ayatollah Khomeini, led the nation of Iran and sent little boys and girls into battle against Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi soldiers. The little children had explosives wrapped around their tiny bodies, which were set off when they came close to enemy Iraqi soldiers. Tens of thousands of little Iranian children died in this way. So, what does the United States do in response to those actions by Iran? Our former president has made it possible for the country that thirty years ago did that to their little boys and girls, and who has since then never stopped chanting “Death to America,” to begin a program to develop their nuclear weapons. Lost in the clutter of so many news stories a quarter century ago was also an incident here in Los Angeles in which a store clerk used a pistol to take the life of a sixteen-year-old girl with whom she had argued, shooting the girl in the back of the head as she walked out of the store. That seems almost benign in comparison to the massacre one week ago when a man randomly fired on thousands of people at a concert in Las Vegas, murdering 58 of them before the coward took his own life. But before you get too excited about what happened one time in Las Vegas a week ago, consider what happens in Chicago every week without tears from Jimmy Kimmel or comments from Hillary Rodham Clinton. The death toll in that city for the year 2017 through Wednesday night already totals 529 people.[3] And among the dead are newborn babies shot in their homes by thugs wielding weapons in the streets. What a world we live in.

How in the world can slender men in their expensive tailored suits and plastic coiffured hair stand before many thousands of people on Sunday mornings and preach that the way to stop all this is to think positive thoughts? That is precisely what such men and women advocate as a remedy for our nation’s and this world’s ills. Beloved, the problems we see every day in the world, and the tragedies I recounted from decades ago, are not the result of negative vibrations or unpositive thoughts. They are the result of sin. The problem is sin, and it is not cured by education, by enlightened thinking, or by anything approaching group affirmation.

Who in history was better educated than the Athenians? Who was more enlightened than the Athenians? And who embraced each other as did the Athenians? They enslaved as many around them as they could, routinely murdered their newborn children, engaged in the rape of little boys and girls, and felt it was acceptable to slay their citizens with whom they disagreed. Ever heard of how Socrates died? The problem is sin, and anyone who does not recognize that sin is the 800-pound gorilla in the room has no business commanding your attention.

In the Scripture text, we will examine today the Apostle Paul summarizes just how in the world sin came to be the problem for mankind that it is, and just what in the world is to be done about it. But to reduce this to a personal level, let’s consider the problem as an expression of questions: “Why do I do the harmful and hurtful things that I do? And what is the result of what I do? And what can be done about what I do?” And by the word “do” I refer to lying, cheating, stealing, boozing, fornicating, idolatry, stubbornness, paying no attention to God for months at a time, and so forth.

Since you cannot arrive at the right answers until first, you ask the right questions, I would further suggest that the answers to such questions as these must not even be attempted until we first consider what Paul has for us in Romans 5.18-21. That is our text for today. When you find that passage, I invite you to stand for the reading of God’s Word: 

18 Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.

19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.

20 Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:

21 That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord. 

Remember, we are in the midst of examining the entire sin and death issue in light of this thing called headship. And in verses 18-21 we come to Paul’s three concluding remarks on the subject of headship: 


18 Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.

19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. 

Remembering that there are only two heads, Adam and Christ, what are the consequences of each man’s headship in the lives of others?

The evaluation of the consequences to you of Adam’s and Christ’s headship is found in verse 18: 

“Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.” 

Please take note of the two sets of italics found in this one verse, remembering that the italicized words indicate that the words are not found in the original Greek text, but were inserted by the translators to help us better understand the writer’s comments. As your Bible reads, there are essentially two sentences that have both the subject of the sentence and the verb of the sentence in italics. That means when Paul wrote this verse he wrote two bare-bones phrases that were not complete sentences, in that they did not contain either the subject of the sentence or the verb. Why did he do that? Paul did that so that he could lay two phrases side by side that were worded so similarly that their differences would stand out dramatically. Let me read the two phrases to you in wooden fashion, preserving the order of the words that are found in the Greek text: 

“Therefore as by one offense upon all men unto condemnation;

even so by one righteous act upon all men unto justification of life.” 

What we have here are two phrases in which is stated the bare essence of Adam’s headship and the bare essence of Christ’s headship. Adam’s single act of transgression resulted in all men being condemned. Even so, the single righteous act of Christ resulted in all men being justified unto life. Before I move on, let me comment on the word “all.” What does the word “all” mean? Folks, Paul is not exaggerating here. “All” means “all.” What we have to understand is the immediate context in which the word “all” is being used. All men who have Adam for their head are condemned. Every last one of you. But in the same fashion, all men who have Christ as their head are justified unto life. Every last one of us.

The elaboration of the consequences for you of Adam’s and Christ’s headship is found in verse 19: 

“For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.” 

At first glance, it might seem that verse 19 is just a repeat of verse 18, only this time with complete sentences. But that’s not the case. Paul uses some different terms in verse 19 to elaborate and give us a considerably fuller picture of the consequences for you of both Adam’s and Christ’s headship. Notice, Adam’s “offense” in verse 18 is now termed “disobedience” by Paul in verse 19. And it was disobedience, was it not? God said not to eat that fruit, and he ate that fruit. Notice, also, the consequence of the “disobedience.” What is termed “condemnation” in verse 18 becomes so much more personal in verse 19, and we “were made sinners.” The Greek word translated here means to cause someone to experience something.[4] No one disputes that Adam’s sin resulted in every one of his descendants becoming actually sinful in a word, in thought, and in deed. Think about it. All this nonsense in the world. The hatred and the bigotry, the violence and the animosity. It isn’t the result of an evil society. It isn’t the result of poverty or pollution. It isn’t the result of mental illness or ignorance. It’s the result of sin. And it’s not sin as an abstract, sin as a hypothetical, or sin as a principle. It is sin that is actually committed by sinners. And many became sinners as a result of our head’s disobedience to God. How many became sinners? All many became sinners. That is the consequence to you of Adam’s headship. But what about Christ’s headship? At this point I must give you a heads up about a shortcoming to be observed in the Reformed understanding of this matter. Verse 19 refers to it as “the obedience of one.” And what was that obedience? Philippians 2.8 tells us the story: 

“And being found in fashion as a man, he [Christ] humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” 

Had my Lord Jesus Christ not been perfectly obedient throughout His life and ministry leading up to the cross, He would not have been a fit sacrifice for sins. So, this obedience is the cross, but it must necessarily include His whole life of obedience before the cross. And what benefit is derived from Christ’s obedience by those who have Him for their head? They are made righteous. How many are made righteous? All many are made righteous. Just as everyone who has Adam as his head was made a sinner, so everyone who has Christ as his head was made righteous. My friends, I think this may go a bit farther than the Reformed position usually admits because the Reformed understanding of justification is that it is a reckoning to be righteous but nothing more than that. Paul here uses the same Greek word (although here future tense) he used in the first half of the verse. Let me read to what a fellow named John Eaton wrote centuries ago about Romans 5.19: 

The apostle, not speaking of sanctification until he comes to the sixth chapter, but only of justification, says thus: ‘By obedience of one shall many be’ what? ‘be counted righteous’? No, but ‘made righteous’... It is mystically above sense and feeling that [we] may be by faith of God’s power made so truly and really righteous to Godward, that [we] cannot but in time, by discerning Christ’s love inherently and actively, declare the same afterwards to man-ward by sanctification.[5] 

How can we summarize the consequences of Adam’s and also Christ’s headship? By asking what did you do to become a sinner? Nothing. It was what Adam did that made you a sinner by his act of disobedience. So then, what did you do to become righteous? Nothing. It was what Christ did that made you righteous, Christian. Are you declared to be righteous through faith in Christ? To be sure. But you are also made righteous through faith in Christ. 


Notice, when Paul discussed the great and momentous events related to sin and salvation, he referred to Adam and Christ. So, what part does the Law of Moses play in all this, the Jewish person is reasonably expected to wonder? Verse 20: 

“Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” 

Discover with me Paul’s description of the Law of Moses. This word “entered” is a very interesting word. If you imagine a theater in which a play is being performed, this word would suggest, not the star of the play, but a supporting member of the cast is coming onto the stage and taking up position over to one side. BDAG reads “to come in beside, slip in, come in as a side issue, of the law, as having no primarily place in the divine plan Ro 5:20.” Bauer also cites numerous Greek sources of the word used to refer to slipping in with unworthy motives and to sneaking in.[6] Imagine the reaction of a Jewish person to Paul’s choice of this word they were very familiar with. Is Paul suggesting the Law of Moses was not important? No, don’t misunderstand. The Law of Moses is extremely important; it’s just not central. What an astounding revelation for a Jewish person to hear read to him for the first time.

Now discover with me the design of the Law of Moses. Paul’s description of the Law is not shocking when you understand its proper role and function in God’s overall plan. You see, the purpose of the Law of Moses that Paul states here is that it was given so the offense might abound. Listen to me, now. What Paul states here is not the ultimate purpose of the Law. He states that in Galatians 3.24: 

“Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” 

What he tells us here might be termed the intermediate purpose of the Law. The Law of Moses was not given to determine what sin was, so much as to bring sin into clear focus. You see, the Jewish people didn’t sin more than Gentiles because they had the Law and we who are Gentiles did not have the Law. But when they, the Jewish people, sinned you could sure tell in a hurry. Why? Because they had the revelation of God’s will regarding sin. So understand, friend, what role the Law plays in God’s scheme of things. The Law did not then and does not now save. But this intermediate purpose, to show the horror of sin against the backdrop of God’s holy and just demands, the Law fulfilled very well.

Then, Paul declares to his readers the dominance of grace. Look at the final sentence in verse 20. This is one of the most encouraging declarations of truth in the entire Bible: 

“But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” 

The Law made sin to abound, in that it made sin so very easy to see. But whenever such a thing as that occurs grace absolutely overwhelms it. Allow me an opportunity to explain. Imagine a kitchen match burning with its little flame. Now imagine dumping the Pacific Ocean on the little match to put it out. Next, imagine a housefly buzzing around your living room. Now imagine a nuclear warhead being detonated to kill that bothersome little fly. Though I do not intend to denigrate the seriousness or the defilement of sin, that’s the comparison Paul is making between the dominance of sin and the dominance of grace. Does sin overpower us? Yes. But we’re nothing. Grace, God’s grace, overwhelms sin. And if you and I don’t experience that in our lives, it’s our fault. Notice, in closing, that the Law is not God’s response to the dominance of sin.

Too often, Jewish people and others react to the Law of Moses as though that is God’s response to the dominance of sin. Some do this by supposing the Ten Commandments were given for us to obey, as though anyone could obey the Ten Commandments. I am persuaded Jewish men like Dennis Prager and Alan Dershowitz expose their erroneous supposition about the Law by abandoning the orthodox Judaism they were raised in because they gave up on ever being able to live up to the Law’s demands. I think that is why Laura Schlesinger left orthodox Judaism. She realized she just couldn’t do it. The mistake is in assuming the Law of Moses is God’s response to sin. The Law of Moses is not God’s response to sin. Grace is God’s response to sin, not works, certainly not works of the Law. Specifically, God’s grace, in the person of His Son Jesus Christ and the salvation He freely offers through the means of faith, is God’s response to sin. Therefore, the role of the Law, though important to God’s plan, was certainly never intended to be central. His Son, Jesus Christ, is central. 


Keeping in mind that the whole issue of your eternal destiny and damnation and salvation and sin is a matter decided by your head, what does Paul say, to sum up this whole discussion about headship? Verse 21: 

“That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.” 

First, the conclusion about the reign of your sin. “Sin hath reigned unto death.” And take note of the fact that this word “reigned” has for its root the Greek word for king. Sin rules as king over you who have Adam for your head. And folks, the dominance of sin over you is complete. This is evidenced by the fact that judgment came upon all men as a result of Adam’s sin. This is evidenced by the fact that all men have experienced or will experience the ultimate consequence of sin, which is death. And finally, this is evidenced by the fact that all men visibly, openly, commit sins. You are so totally dominated by sin that you have no control over whether or not you sin, and you have but little control over the kinds of sins you may or may not commit.

Now, reflect with me on the conclusion to draw from the reign of grace. In verse 18 you will see a comparison made using the words “Therefore as....even so....” then, in verse 19 you will see another comparison made using the words “For by....” In verse 21 Paul does it a third time. The verse starts off “That as....” and concludes with “even so....” In each case, Paul’s reasoning proceeds along this line: As this is true, even so, this is true. For as such and such is true, so such and such is also true. And folks, he follows the same pattern here in verse 21. Is the reign of sin absolute over those who have Adam for their head? Undeniably. Well, even so, the reign of grace is absolute over those who have Christ for their head. And notice the contrast. As sin’s reign results in death, the reign of grace results in righteousness that results in eternal life. And all of this is wrought by Jesus Christ. You see, He is the source of grace. He is the source of righteousness. He is the source of eternal life. He is gracious. He imputes righteousness. He makes righteous. And He gives the gift of eternal life. 

I think we all understand that sometimes we Christians are so passive and quiet. We act like defeated soldiers whose country is occupied by powerful foes. But our thinking is all wrong. We’re evaluating things only regarding what we can see, and we’re ignoring the spiritual reality that cannot be seen with the physical eyes. Sure, sin reigns supreme in the realm of Adam. We’re human beings. That means we are sinners and that means we die. But if you know Jesus Christ as your Savior that isn’t the only reality.

“Why do I do the harmful and hurtful things that I do? And what is the result of what I do? And what can be done about what I do?” Remember those questions asked at the outset? You do the things that you do because you are a sinner. All human beings, since we came into this life with Adam for our head, are sinners. And the result of being sinners is you will die, and I will die. And nothing can be done by you about that. But Jesus Christ without any help from you has already done something about it. As dominant as sin appears to be, grace is infinitely more dominant in the life of that person who has Jesus Christ as his head. Hey, believer, does sin abound? Do you foul up and blow it? Grace does much more abound. And grace reigns through righteousness. By God’s grace, you will do better; you will grow, you will experience victory.

But if you are not a Christian, if you do not have Christ for your head, if you are still an Adam-only human being, then sin reigns to death. You will sin to a greater or lesser degree until you die, at which time you will go straight to Hell. And nothing can be done for you so long as Adam is your head. Therefore, I urge you to consider the claims of the Bible about Jesus Christ and respond to the Gospel by trusting Christ to be your Savior. In that way, you acquire a new head. In that way you’re under someone who not only can do something about your sin problem, He already has done something about your sin problem.




[3] 10/6/2017

[4] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), page 492.

[5] David H. J. Gay, Four ‘Antinomians’ Tried And Vindicated, (Brachus, 2013), page 105.

[6] Bauer, page 774 (emphasis in the original).

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