Until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law.
When Adam sinned, you and I were held accountable for Adam’s sin. As a result, we experience the consequence of Adam’s sin: death. Paul anticipated that people would object to that, so he talked about our connection to Adam in Romans 5:13. “Until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law.”
God gave Adam a law: “Don’t eat of this tree.” But the Old Testament Law did not come until the time of Moses. Was there sin in the world in the years between Adam and Moses? Of course there was. But you cannot charge somebody with violation of a specific command if that specific command is not known. Sin is not counted against a person where there is no law.
Let me illustrate that for you. Let’s say my city has an ordinance that says, “Residents need to be conservative with their use of water.” I decide to water my lawn five hours every day. One day, a policeman comes to my door and says, “Dr. Jeffress, I am giving you a ticket for violating our water ordinance.” I say, “Why? To me, this is ‘conservative.’ There is no specified amount of water I have to use.” Do you think his ticket will hold up in court? No, because I did not break a specific law. Where there is no specific law, you cannot be held guilty for breaking the law.
But notice what Paul said in verse 14: “Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam.” Even though there was no law from the time of Adam to Moses, did people die during that time? Of course they did. Were people sinning during that time? Of course they were.
Why do we sin, and why do we die? Paul gave us four facts: (1) Death is God’s judgment for breaking His law. (2) Adam broke God’s law and died. (3) From Adam until Moses, there was no specific law. (4) From Adam to Moses, people still died. Why did they die? The same reason you and I die: because of our connection to Adam. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:22, “In Adam all die.” We are all held guilty for Adam’s sin.
If you think that is unjust, Paul showed us something even more unjust. Just as Adam represented all mankind, and by his disobedience death came to everyone, so another man, Jesus Christ, the last Adam, made a decision that resulted in the possibility of salvation for many people. “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” (Romans 5:15). If you think it is unfair to be held responsible for Adam’s sin, then it is even more unfair that we should get credited with the righteousness of Jesus Christ because of what He did on the cross for us. That is an unfairness that works for our benefit.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “One for All” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2014.
Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.