Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. (Romans 5:14; ESV)
It seems to me a number of commentators have missed the point concerning how Adam was a type of the one to come. Most of the books I have read suggest that the sinning of others was different than the transgression of Adam because Adam was given a different law. One could point out that Adam’s law was different from the laws given from Adam to Moses in that they were of a different nature. Adam’s law was one command. After his sin, the laws for humanity were numerous. Moral laws were given such that Cain killing Abel was sin and the sodomy of Sodom and Gomorrah was sin. So, in this sense, the law given to Adam was different in nature than the laws given to people after Adam.
But we need to carefully read Romans 5:14 because the apostle Paul does not say that the laws were different for Adam than for everyone else. Rather, he says the sinning was different. The sinning of the world was not like the transgression (sin) of Adam. Based on this, Paul says Adam was a type of the one to come. How was Adam’s sin different from the rest of the world’s sins?
Paul explains how in Romans 5:15-19. Adam’s sin affected all humanity. Adam introduced sin into the world. Adam’s action brought corruption, ruin, and death into a perfect world. Before Adam’s sin, there was no sin and no separation from God. But when Adam sinned, everything changed. Humanity’s relationship with God changed. The creation changed as it was placed under a curse. The world was no longer perfect. Ruin entered the world. Paradise was lost. Now we live in a fallen world, a world full of sin, corruption, and ruin. But Adam was a type of the one to come because Jesus would reverse the power of sin, introducing grace into the world. Adam introduced sin and death to the world, but Jesus introduced grace. Both introduced something to the world that affects all people. Adam’s sin changed the world and changed our relationship with God. But Jesus’ obedience and righteousness changed the world and changed our relationship with God. This must be Paul’s parallel.
Many see Paul saying that Adam’s sin transferred to all people. The problem is the parallel that Paul set up. If Adam’s sin transferred to all people regardless of our actions and choices, then Jesus’ righteousness transferred to all people regardless of our actions and choices. But Paul has been preaching the need for faith and walking in the footsteps of faith of Abraham (Romans 4:12). Paul is not preaching universal salvation. The only way for Paul’s parallel to be maintained is to observe that Adam introduced sin and death into the world, but Jesus introduced grace into the world. Adam’s sin changed the world and changed our relationship with God, but Jesus’ obedience changed the world and changed our relationship with God.