15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.
In verses 15 to 17 Paul drives home the vast dissimilarity between Adam and Christ. This verse takes up the contrasting parallel between Adam and Christ begun in verse 12 and continues through verse 17.
These verses explain believers can be certain about the future notwithstanding the disaster wrought by Adam.
These verses show five contrasts:
The free gift of Christ juxtaposes the transgression of Adam, v. 15
Christ’s justification is much superior to Adam’s condemnation, v. 16
Adam’s sin brought an unintended result of death but Christ produced a way for eternal life, v. 17.
The constitution of Adam’s one transgression was “disobedience” whereas the constitution of Christ’s act of righteousness was “obedience,” vv. 18-19.
Where sin increased, grace super-abounded all the more, vv. 20-21.
15 But [strong contrast] the free [grace] gift is not like the trespass [Adam’s original violation of God].
Although Adam was a type of Christ, there was a distinction between him and Christ. The cases between the two are not completely parallel. People suffer from the sin of one but benefit from the suffering of another.
The “but” contrasts Adam as a “type” in the previous verse with Christ in this verse. The result of Christ’s action is not like the result of Adam’s action. There is a completely different result between the two men. Adam’s action brought death to “many” but Christ’s action superlatively brought “grace” to “many.” This is the supremacy of Christ over Adam.
For [explanation] if many [mankind] died [at one point—aorist indicative] through one man’s trespass,
The universal condemnation and death are due to the one sin of the one man Adam. Five times in verses 15 to 19 we have the phrase “by the trespass of the one the many died.” This repetition establishes beyond dispute that condemnation passed to all men by the one trespass of the one man Adam:
“By one man’s offense,” v.15
“The one who sinned,” v.16
“One man’s offense death reigned through the one,” v.17
“One man’s offense judgment came to all men,” v.18
“By one man’s disobedience many were made sinners,” v.19
Therefore, universal sin and condemnation came from the one man, Adam. Adam’s sin is the direct judicial reason for the imposition of judgment on all. This condemnation did not come from individual acts of people subsequent to Adam. The contrast is that by the death of the one man, Christ, justification came upon those who trust that payment for sin. We receive eternal life by what another has done.
much more [greater in degree]
Christ’s one act is much greater than the one act of Adam. Adam’s act brought death on all, but Christ’s act brought eternal life to all who would embrace it (v.17). Salvation in Christ ushers in far more than what we lost in Adam. Grace is “much more” than the sin of mankind. The issue here is the degree of contrast with Adam—“much more.” The cost of God’s gift to us was wholly on Christ’s part.
There is a higher degree of certainty in what Christ did as over against what Adam did.
God’s grace is greater than man’s sin. The power of death can be broken, but the power of Christ cannot be broken. The state of a believer in Christ is far better than what we had in Adam.