"And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, and desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned– (Romans 5:12; NRSV)
Somehow this is a passage used as a proof text for Calvin’s doctrine of total hereditary depravity. Romans 5:12 argues against total hereditary depravity. Unfortunately, many choose not see the plain teaching of the text.Â
The apostle Paul points out that sin was introduced to the world because of Adam’s sin. This simply means that before Adam there was not any sin. No one had broken God’s law. But Adam and Eve chose to sin. Therefore, the world was without sin. But sin came into the world because Adam sinned. Death is the end result of sin. Now, carefully watch the argument:
“So death spread to all” – Why did death spread to all people? Carefully look at what Paul says. Paul does not say that death spread to all people because Adam sinned. Paul does not say that death spread to all people because sin is inherited from our parents. Paul does not say that death spread to all people because Adam’s sin has been transferred to all people.
Carefully read it:
So death spread to all because all have sinned. (Romans 5:12; NRSV)
Why do most people not want to read this part of the verse? Death spreads to all people, not because Adam’s sin is inherited by his descendants, but because every person has sinned themselves. We are depraved. We are sinful. We are full of wickedness. We are enemies of Christ. But we are sinful, depraved people because we have sinned ourselves, not because Adam’s sin has tainted us. To use Romans 5:12 to teach total hereditary depravity is to only read half of the sentence. Death has spread to us because we all sin. No one is righteous. We are condemned by our own actions and choices, not Adam’s.