Romans 5:11-21

By one man. Law and transgression.

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"11Not only this, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received this reconciliation. 12So then, just as sin entered the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all people because all sinned - 13for before the law was given, sin was in the world, but there is no accounting for sin when there is no law. 14Yet death reigned from Adam until Moses even over those who did not sin in the same way that Adam (who is a type of the coming one) transgressed. 15But the gracious gift is not like the transgression. For if the many died through the transgression of the one man, how much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one man Jesus Christ multiply to the many! 16And the gift is not like the one who sinned. For judgment, resulting from the one transgression, led to condemnation, but the gracious gift from the many failures led to justification. 17For if, by the transgression of the one man, death reigned through the one, how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one, Jesus Christ! 18Consequently, just as condemnation for all people came through one transgression, so too through the one righteous act came righteousness leading to life for all people. 19For just as through the disobedience of the one man many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of one man many will be made righteous. (Romans 5:11-19)

Christians’ traditional belief is that they must manage the issue of sin in their lives. As a result, it becomes an endless game of whack-a-mole in which they try to pop every sin that appears. According to this school of thought, if I don’t sin, there is no problem.

But, this is a fruitless endeavor since there are so many sinful expressions, like the hordes of zombies in the World War Z movie, that no amount of defense can keep them out. It is comparable to a man flailing around in a sea of sins while attempting to avoid coming into contact with them. He is, in fact, drowning in this vast sea. Whether he lies still or moves around, he is surrounded by sins.

The above-quoted verse states that “sin entered the world through one man” (v. 12), expressing the truth of sins’ omnipresence. The ocean of sins that humanity is in cannot be emptied by your efforts to abstain from one or more sins. Even before you and I were old enough to commit some heinous sins, there was already sin in the earth. In reality, we all lost immortality because of one man rather than any individual sins we committed: “the many died through the transgression of one man” (v. 15).

This explains why many Christians experience their faith as an unending treadmill, a never-ending chasing after the wind. They keep trying, but their ultimate objective of eliminating sins will never be achieved.

But thankfully, the God of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ provides us with a means of escape that will cause sin to be finally defeated: “the gift by the grace of one man Jesus Christ” (v. 15). Here, the Christian has only one option: accept their Redeemer’s free gift of righteousness or battle to purge their lives of sin. Our Sunday school class members can be grateful to be among the select few who boarded Jesus Christ’s ark, while the majority resisted this message with all their might, preferring to float in the sea of sins.


20Now the law came in so that the transgression may increase, but where sin increased, grace multiplied all the more, 21so that just as sin reigned in death, so also grace will reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:20-21)

God gave people the law in many ways to let them see the futility of their attempts to purge sin from their life. For instance, the Ten Commandments that Moses handed down from Mount Sinai, the knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden, and other self-created laws.

So, it is necessary to interpret “the law came in so that the transgression may increase” as the increase in awareness of their sinful state.

Here is where many Christians misunderstand the significance of the law in their religion. They seek to use it to regulate transgressions, but we now understand how pointless this attempt really is.

The law’s sole purpose is to expose a person for who they truly are in light of God’s righteousness. It serves as a mirror and an X-ray machine, shedding light on the darkness of the human soul. As a result, perhaps they are eventually driven to the cross in order to place their faith in Christ, where the true solution to man’s sin can be realized.

Nghi Nguyen

- Scripture quoted by permission. All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2006 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved.

Disclaimer: This is my own opinion on the topic, which does not necessarily reflect the church's theology, or beliefs of the individuals in it — Nghi Nguyen

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