Is Paul suggesting that Adam did not directly bring death on all men but instead each person dies only when they sin by interacting with the Torah?

ESV Romans 7:

7What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” 8But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. 9I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. 10The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.

13Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure.

4 Answers 4


In answer to your question:

Is Paul suggesting that Adam did not directly bring death on all men but instead each person dies only when they sin by interacting with the Torah?

You are on the right track, partially. Adam’s sin did indeed bring death but it was the beginning step. When Adam sinned man left living under God’s grace and protection and chose to live his way via the knowledge of good and evil. Since that knowledge of good and evil was then manifested within each man’s own heart and mind, everyone did what was right in his own mind. That is why before the flood man’s behavior was nothing but evil continually.

After the flood, God then issued a single standard of righteousness (the Commandments and the Law of Moses) so man could understand God’s standard for perfect behavior. So the OT covenant of the Law became the initial way you sought God’s righteousness in order to obtain a relationship with Him. However, we understand that God did not intend for man to live by the law since He states in 2 Corinthians chapter 3 that the OT covenant of the law was designed by God to fade away just like the glory on the face of Moses.

2 Corinthians 3 (KJV)

6 Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. 7 But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away: 8 How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious? 9 For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory. 10 For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth. 11 For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious. 12 Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech: 13 And not as Moses, which put a veil over his face, that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished: 14 But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ.

Hence Adam’s sin, opened the way for the OT Covenant of the Law which was only temporary, only to be eliminated and replaced by the sacrifice or Christ and the NT Covenant of Grace.

Paul, in your referenced passage, is speaking of attempting to live under the law and attempting to seek salvation by keeping the law. If you seek to attain righteousness through your works and deeds, then you are destined for destruction for no one can keep the law.

He states in verse 8 that apart from the law sin lies dead. That means if the law is not applied to your life, then there can be no sin. That’s why he says in verse 7 that if it had not been for the law, we would not know what sin was. The law highlights sin; it provided a standard in which to judge someone’s behavior. Sin is a transgression of the law.

1 John 3:4 (KJV)

Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.

So, in verse 9 he says that when the law (commandment) came and was applied to his life, sin was then activated (since there was now a standard in which to judge his behavior) and then he died, since no one can live through keeping the law. In verse 10, he says that the commandment deceived him. This means that attempting to live by the law seems to be the right thing to do, it seems like a good way to approach God. However, it deceives you because if you offend in only one point you are guilty of all.

James 2:10 (KJV)

10 For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.

No one can live by the law since you must be 100% perfect all the time and not sin even once; an impossible condition. So, again, if you attempt to seek salvation on your own without the grace of God and the sacrifice of Christ to “cover” your sin, then you are destined for failure and you are destined for spiritual death; for all of our righteousness is nothing but filthy rags before God.

Isaiah 64:6 (KJV)

But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousness are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.

  • Great question! Apart from Christ, everyone is subject to death regardless of Jew or Gentile. That’s what Paul means that “all have sinned and have come short of the glory of God”, the “soul that sins, it shall die”. In Romans 2, he gives the reason that the Gentiles are guilty before God, just like the Jews. The reason is that the law has been written on everyone’s heart so all have no excuse. (con’t)
    – alb
    Sep 26, 2018 at 22:05
  • Paul says that the evidence that this is true is that the Gentiles act just like the Jews, in that they judge their neighbor based on an internal law or each man’s understanding of good and evil, right and wrong. The Gentiles were either “excusing” people (excusing the behavior of those who act just as they do) or “accusing” people (condemning those who do not act as they do). So, all people are guilty before God, worthy of death and in need of a savior.
    – alb
    Sep 26, 2018 at 22:06
  • Another good question. I encourage you to go back and read the entire chapter again. He starts out by giving an example of a woman married to a man is bound to that man as long as the man lives. So is the life of the believer bound to the law as long as the law lives. When the relationship is dead, you are free to marry another (Christ). The premise is: alive to the law is to be also alive to sin but dead spiritually; dead to the law is to be also dead to sin but alive spiritually. (con’t)
    – alb
    Sep 27, 2018 at 19:56
  • In V4, he says that we have become “dead to the law” by the body of Christ. V5 says that when we were under the law, that brought fruits unto death. V7 Paul says the purpose of the law is to define sin for he says in V8 that without the law sin is dead. In V9 he says that he was “alive once but when the law came, sin revived and I died”. When he says that he “was alive once”, he means when he didn’t have knowledge of the law, there was nothing to accuse him. When the law came to him (defining the perfect standard of behavior) sin was then imputed to him and he died spiritually.
    – alb
    Sep 27, 2018 at 19:57
  • Hope this helps. 1 Corinthians 15:22: For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. Romans 5:12-18: 12 Wherefore, as by one man, sin entered into the world and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: 13 (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come. (con’t)
    – alb
    Sep 28, 2018 at 13:47

”Is Paul suggesting that Adam did not directly bring death on all men”

No. Quite the opposite. Paul is explaining that (because of Adam) all have died - but, they don’t know it. Prior to Paul learning about the Law, he didn’t know he was ‘dead’ [in sin]. This dialogue in chapter 7 starts back several chapters. Paul explains, that while a sinner, and not knowing there was a ‘standard’ or ‘expectation’ for righteousness (outlined by the Law), that needed to be met, that he though he was fine.

ROM 6:20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.

This is what he was referring to in chapter 7

ROM 7:9 I was alive once without the law, [snip]

But, when he was introduced to the Law, then he knew, then the ‘Law’ told him that he was, in fact, unrighteous. That is, ‘dead’, because of ‘sin’ - (which came in through Adam.)

ROM 7:9 [snip], but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died.

So Paul was ‘dead’ [under Adam], but didn’t ‘know’ it until the Law reflected this fact.

One issue that causes difficulties with understanding, and even mis-interpretations in this book (Romans)is failing to go back, or take into account the previous chapters. You cannot examine any individual part Romans in isolation - it opens up interpretation to conjecture, it needs to be ‘seen’ as a whole.

  • @Ruminator yes - thanks for that. (Edited)
    – Dave
    Dec 7, 2020 at 20:49

νοµον does not effectively represent the Torah, but rather, the conscious obligation to comply with the law, for those who know it, already εντολης represents the commandment already fulfilled, executed, awaiting, with that reward. It is necessary to observe the "game" with the word death, physical or spiritual, according to context.


Romans 7:9 I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. The Apostle Paul is looking back in time and remembers (living physically) without the law. Meaning he was not dead. But when he was confronted with the Law he realised the law condemned him to death. He found he was separated from God,(Spiritually dead).This does not mean he was once spiritually alive. Just as you would say to an unbeliever "you are spiritually dead" and need to come to Christ. This does not mean they are spiritually alive because they live without Christ. Paul was an adult man killing Christians living long past the age of accountability. Paul was not converted until he met Christ on the Damascus Road. If we read this chapter from the beginning we find out Paul is discussing in verse 4 (being dead to the law through the body of Christ, and being married to Him who was raised from the dead. To say Paul was once spiritually alive before coming to Christ would be missing the context of the Chapter. In the KJV (Was living) (Greek G-2198): aw,zao,dzah-o; a primary verb; to live (literal or figurative): -life (time), (a-) live (-ly), quick. (1) To live, have life, spoken of physical life and existence as opposed to death or nonexistence, and implying some duration. (A) Generally, of human life. (B) In the sense of to exist, in an absolute sense and without end, now and hereafter: to live forever; of human beings. (C) Metaphorically, of things, only in the part. zon: living, lively, active, also enduring, opposed to what is dead, inactive, or transient. "Living water" means the water of running streams and fountains, as opposed to that of stagnant cisterns, pools or marshes. GREEK MEANING FOR [Died] (and I Died) (Greek 599): apothnesko,from 575 and 2348; to die off (literal or figurative): -be dead, death, die, lie a dying, be slain (x with). From apo (575) an intensive, and thinesko (2348), to die. To die; through the force of apo, to die out, to become quite dead. Hence it is stronger than thinesko, though generally used synonymously with it and instead of it: Spoken of persons (as in Rom. 6:10 & 7:2) Spoken of a violent death to be put to Spoken of the punishment of death Metaphorically, referring to religious faith, works, etc.: to be ready to expire, become extinct. Also, to die to or from something, ie. to renounce, to forsake (as in Rom. 6:2) God forbid. How shall we, that are (dead G-599) apothnesko to sin, live any longer therein? Figuratively, to die forever, to come under condemnation of eternal death, ie. exclusion from the Messiah's kingdom, and subjection to eternal punishment for sin (as in Rom. 7:10) And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto (death G-2288) thanatos, from 2348 (properly an adjective used as a noun) death (literal or figurative): -x deadly, (be...) death.

  • 1
    Hi Joe and welcome to the site. Can you please break your paragraph up into formatted sections? I'm a little challenged when trying to read it as written. Thanks.
    – Ruminator
    Jan 7, 2020 at 13:40

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