"Therefore as by the offense 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" (Romans 5:18).
This powerful verse comes within an important doctrinal passage, contrasting the work and the effect of the first man, Adam, with those of the last Adam, Christ Jesus. In some way known fully only to God, each of us participated in Adam's first sin, and we all bear the marks of the resultant curse. Likewise, we who have believed share in Christ's sinlessness and have received His righteousness.
The contrasts between Adam and Christ are many in this passage. For some reason, many evangelicals who have adopted "theistic evolution" (or in some cases, "progressive creation"), overlook the obvious teaching of Romans 5 that Adam was a real man and that his real actions had real effects. The carefully worded argument in this passage is worthless if Adam was not a real person.
That God overruled the sin of Adam and His own curse through the work of Christ was "the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ" (v.15). But it was more than grace, it was abundance of grace. "For if by one man's offense death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ" (v.17). And, "where sin abounded, grace did much more abound" (v.20).
Trapped under the imputed effects of Adam's sin, unable to fulfill the law which made our sin clearly seen, and unable to bridle our insatiable appetite for sin, we were doomed. But, "as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord" (v.21). Our plight under Adam was desperate, indeed, but God's grace was even greater. JDM