Confessions on Total Depravity, Part 4: Romans Five

Oh Lord, you are mighty and your word is true;

With verity and strength you proclaim knowledge.

     Your speech shows me things that are beyond me;

     And I cannot plumb the depth of your mysteries.

           Oh, open my eyes blinded by sin and frailty;

           So that I may know you and your love for all humanity!

     Plunge me in your mysteries;

     and to swim in its depth speak strength into me.

Lift my mind that I may proclaim your knowledge;

And let me declare your mighty word, oh Lord.

It is true what you have said, oh Yahweh: “Sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned” (Rm 5:12, NRSV). You speak of Adam without any ambiguity. You say that Adam brought death into the world through his sin. And all die because all sin. Does this mean then all sinned when Adam sinned? What else do you say concerning this? You say, “Death exercised dominion from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam” (Rm 5:14, NRSV). When you say that their sins were not like Adam’s, then you imply not only are their sins not similar to Adam’s, but they did not commit Adam’s sin. And therefore death is the result of their own sin.

But you say, “by the one man’s sin, the many died” (5:15). Does this mean you afflict the son for the father’s sin? Do “the parents [eat] sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge” (Eze 18:2, NRSV)? “Child,” you draw me close, “know that all lives are mine; the life of the parent as well as the life of the child is mine: it is only the person who sins that shall die” (Eze 18:4, NRSV). Yes, Lord, I trust you. But how then is Adam’s punishment upon us all?  “All have sinned and fall short of [my] glory” (Rm 3:23, NRSV). Ah, so each man dies fit his sin and Adam was the condemnation that brought death upon sinners. He was the one who gave us our bent toward sin and we are the ones who earned our punishment.

Yet, you add this:

Just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all. 19 For just as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.

Romans 5:18–19 (NRSV)

But I see. Justification comes through participation in faith. And “all” are not saved unless they receive your righteousness (Rm 5:17). Likewise, condemnation comes upon “all” men when they participate in sin. And all have sinned, therefore all receive  condemnation.

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