Universal Sin And Salvation In Romans 5:12–21 -- By: Mark Rapinchuk

Journal: Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society
Volume: JOTGES 30:59 (Autumn 2017)
Article: Universal Sin And Salvation In Romans 5:12–21
Author: Mark Rapinchuk

Universal Sin And Salvation In Romans 5:12–211

Mark Rapinchuk

College of the Ozarks

I. Introduction

One of the more prominent doctrines in systematic theology is the doctrine of “inherited sin.”2 A great deal of speculation has taken place regarding the cause, transmission/imputation and consequences of inherited sin. It is commonplace to cite Rom 5:12–21 as the foundational text for this doctrine.3 The present essay intends to question this standard practice. It is granted that several related issues of systematic theology will surface, which cannot be adequately addressed within the confines of this article. The focus will rather be one important exegetical issue involved in the common reading of Romans 5, namely, what does Paul mean by eis pantas anthrōpous?4

In reading the provocative words of Paul found in Rom 5:12–21 (especially vv 12, 18–19), one cannot help but wonder if the standard reading of this section reads too much into the passage. Have interpreters gone off the path by reading this as an exposition on the concept of original or inherited sin? Not only might one question

whether this is Paul’s intention and main point, it might be asked if this concept is in view at all. The following essay suggests that such an understanding leads to unacceptable conclusions. If the present passage is read as an explicit statement about inherited sin (on the basis of 5:12, 18), then consistency would seem to require that it also be read as an explicit statement of Universalism.5 If Paul says in v 18 that all without exception are sinners (as a direct consequence of Adam’s sin), then he is also maintaining that all without exception are saved from their sin.

But this, we maintain, is mistaken on two counts. First, it is not Paul’s intention to speculate on the transmission or imputation of human sinfulness.6

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