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Romans 5:12-21: Jesus' Death Brings Eternal Life
Individuals: Take time to think back about your past week. Where have you seen God work in your life or answer prayer? Write down any prayer requests you have.
Group: Open the study by sharing life updates, reviewing highs and lows of your past week, or sharing prayer requests and praises.
Icebreaker: What is the best gift you ever remember receiving?
All: Begin the study with a word of prayer, asking God to open your heart for today’s study. You can also pray for any prayer requests now, or save that for the end.
Read today’s passage: Romans 5:12-21.
12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned—
13 To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law. 14 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 is a pattern of the one to come.
15 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! 16 Nor can the gift of God be compared with the result of one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. 17 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!
18 Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. 19 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.
20 The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, 21 so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
What is the context for this passage?
Paul continues to describe for the Roman church some basic theology related to sin, sacrifice, and salvation. His previous discussion informed us that we have all sinned, and the consequence for that is death. However, if we have faith in Jesus, we can trade our sinfulness for his righteousness, which brings us justification—we can stand before God as righteous instead of sinful. This helps restore the relationship between sinful man and a holy God.
Today’s passage takes this discussion one step further. Not only are we reconciled to God, but because of Jesus’ act on the cross, if we accept that gift of grace and righteousness, we can have eternal life.
Read the passage again.
Explore a different version if you have one available. If you are online, here is Romans 5 in NIV through Bible Gateway. You can change the version by using the dropdown menu at the top right of the page.
Try to summarize the passage in your own words.
Answer these three questions about the passage:
1. What does the passage say about God?
God gives abundant grace to people (vs. 15, 17, 20). I usually think of grace as not getting a punishment that you deserve. We all deserve death because we have all sinned. Instead, God gives abundant grace to people who put their faith in Jesus.
God gave people the most amazing gift—justification and righteousness through Jesus (vs. 15–17). This passages refers to a “gift” 5 times in verses 15–17. What is that gift? Let’s look at some hints it gives us. The gift came by grace through Jesus. The gift brings justification. Finally, in verse 17, it tells us the gift is righteousness. The only reason we have this gift is because Jesus paid the penalty for our sins through his death on the cross.
Jesus brings righteousness to people (vs. 17). The only way that people can stand before God and not receive his full wrath is by being righteous. We can’t do that on our own. Instead, we need the righteousness of Jesus to cover us. Jesus brought this righteousness to people when he paid for their sins on the cross.
2. What does the passage say about people?
One man brought sin into the whole world (vs. 12, 17, 19). Adam and Eve were the first pair of humans on earth. God put them in the garden with one command—do not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They chose to disobey that command, thus bringing sin into the whole world.
One act of sin brought condemnation and death to all people (vs. 12, 17, 18, 21). Because of Adam and Eve’s act of sin in the garden, God kicked them out of the garden and brought a curse on the world. By kicking them out of the garden, God was restricting their way to the tree of life, which would allow them to live forever. Because of this, all humans must face death due to sin.
All people have sinned (vs. 12). After that first act of sin in the garden, every person who has come after that has also sinned. We are born with a sin nature. Only one human has ever lived a perfect life—Jesus.
3. What does the passage say about God’s plan?
God’s plan is that sin is only charged against people when the law is clear (vs. 13, 20). God gave people the law so that they would know God’s expectations for obedience. If there is no law, then nothing can be claimed as “good” or “bad.” God gave us the law so that we would know exactly what God’s expectations are and so we would know when we broke the law. And we all do break God’s law.
God’s plan is that the gift of Jesus dying on the cross for our sins applies to all (vs. 15). Just as one act of sin transferred sin to all people, one act of righteousness made righteousness available to all people. This act of righteousness was Jesus’ act of being the perfect sacrifice for all sin through his death on the cross.
God’s plan was that one sin brought judgment and condemnation (vs. 16, 18). When God created the world, he added one tree that he warned Adam and Eve to stay away from. He knew what would happen if they ate from that tree—sin would come into the world, and that sin would be transferred to all people. Then when God judged people for their acts on earth, he would see their sin and condemn them.
God’s plan was that one gift (righteousness through Jesus) brought justification (vs. 16, 18, 19). When Jesus died on the cross, he paid the penalty for sin once for all. For those who believe in Jesus, this act brought with it a gift—Jesus traded our sin for his righteousness. Those who accept this gift can be justified before God—we can stand before God as righteous even though we have sinned.
God’s plan is that those who receive the gifts of grace and righteousness will live (vs. 17–19, 21). The Bible tells us that the penalty for sin is death. In contrast, if we accept the gifts of grace and righteousness through Jesus, we will live. That doesn’t mean only life on this earth. It means life with God for all eternity.
God’s plan is that there is only one way to eternal life—Jesus (vs. 17, 21). Many in our society believe that there are many ways to God and many ways to heaven. The Bible clearly teaches that there is only one way to heaven and one way to eternal life with God—faith in Jesus.
How does the passage fit into the overarching story of the Bible?
Sometimes it’s easier to understand a passage if you have a little outside knowledge from other passages in the Bible. This section will help provide that outside perspective.
The Bible tells a story of the lengths God will go to in order to restore a broken relationship with man. First, God created humans and put them in a perfect garden with no sin or evil. Instead of obeying God, they were deceived and made the choice to disobey, bringing sin into the world (Genesis 3 study). God’s temporary solution was a system of laws and sacrifices to maintain the relationship between God and humans (Exodus 20 study, Leviticus 4 study). This was the old covenant.
With Jesus came a new covenant. In this new covenant, Jesus, God’s Son, came to earth and lived a perfect life without sin. He then became the final sacrifice to pay the penalty for sin once for all (Matthew 27 study). For those who accept that gift by faith, Jesus trades his righteousness for our sinfulness. We become a reflection of Jesus’ righteousness, which allows us to stand before God as righteous. When God sees us as righteous, he will not have wrath against us. This saves us from eternal condemnation and instead allows us to enter into eternal life. This eternal life allows us to spent eternity in heaven with God.
Individual: Answer the following questions thoughtfully for yourself.
Group: Pose these questions for discussion.
All: If you are willing to share, I’d love to hear your thoughts to these questions. Feel free to use the comment section to start a discussion about this passage.
What else strikes you about this passage?
How does the passage affect how you view God? How you view yourself?
How does this passage affect how you will live your life?
For additional study related to this topic, read 1 John 5:1–15.
For Bible Essential studies, you can use my thoughts as your devotional, or you can download and use the journaling sheet to work through the passage on your own. If desired, you can then compare your thoughts to mine. Journal sheets can be downloaded and used now or later. They can be printed and filled in by hand or saved and filled out electronically. Journal sheets are available for individual or group use.
If you plan to lead a group study, a PowerPoint presentation is also available.
You can access these resources by clicking here: Romans 5 Resources