What Does Romans 5:13 Mean?

for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law.

Romans 5:13(NASB)
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Verse Thoughts

In Romans 5 Paul moves from God's case against unbelieving sinners and their need to be justified by faith, i.e. born-again... to the overwhelming benefits of the justified man, who is positioned in Christ. He lists many of the privileges that are ours in Him, which include peace with God, access to the Father, His abundant grace and the exultant hope we have in Christ.

The Lord Jesus not only saved us by His blood, but has delivered us from all condemnation.. past, present and future, because all our sin was imputed to Him. He paid the price for all our sin on the cross. He died for our personal sin. He exchanged our death for His life. He exchanged our fallen sin nature with our new life in Christ. He washed away the stain of sin with His own blood and imputed us with His own perfect righteousness.

God has given us the indwelling Holy Spirit as a pledge and guarantee that His promises are sure. He has not only forgiven us of all our sin, by taking the punishment we deserve upon Himself, but has imputed us with HIS own perfect righteousness. He has declared US to be righteous before God, simply because of our faith in Christ! 

After listing the superabundant privilege that are the right of all who are saved by grace through faith in Christ, Paul takes us back to the root of sin. He reminds us that sin came into the world by Adam and explained that death entered the world because of sin. And the wages of sin is death - both spiritual death and physical death.. for death was passed on to every man when Adam sinned. Because of sin every member of the human race is born spiritually dead and embarks on a journey towards physical death.

Death means separation from God.. both spiritual and physical separation, and because of Adam's sin, every one of his progeny is imputed with a sin nature. We do not become a sinner when we sin. We sin because we are already a sinner. We are all 'born in sin'. We were born to parents who were also sinners, and we inherited the same sin nature.

Every member of the human race is born a sinner and although death claims the life of every descendent of Adam... because of our imputed sin nature, it was not until the time of Moses that God gave man His perfect standard for living. God gave Israel the Mosaic Law, so that fallen sinners could identify personal acts of sin. The Law God gave through Moses is the benchmark for sin, and the tool He uses to identify personal sin in our lives.

God gave the Law so that sinners could recognise we have broken God's perfect Law, confess our sin and understand our need of a Saviour. Before the Law of Moses' sin was in the world and the icy fingers of death claimed the life of every sinner. However, before the Law, mans' personal sin was not imputed to individual sinners, "for until the Law, sin was in the world... but sin is not imputed when there is no law.

God gave His chosen people the Law so that sin could be identified as sin, and God graciously provided sacrificial offerings so that atonement could be made for sin, through the shed blood of an innocent animal. Atonement means 'covering', and animal sacrifices for sin meant sin could be covered.. until God sent His anointed Messiah, Who would come to save His people from their sin and forgive them their iniquity - both the sin nature imputed from Adam and personal sins.

And Israel were chosen by God to be His mouthpiece to the pagan nations. Israel were called to be God's witnesses. They were entrusted to be a light to the Gentiles, so that pagans could also be justified by faith and also be brought into the camp of Israel, and have their sins covered.

In Romans, Paul systematically lays out the shocking truth that everyman has to face.. he is a sinner and "the wages of sin is death". But he also brings God's incredible gift into focus..."but the gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord".  Everyman is faced with the inevitability of death, which is eternal separation from God, but every man can choose to receive God's gift by faith.. or foolishly reject it, for everyone has freewill. 

As Church age believers we were not born before the Law when personal sin was not yet imputed to sinners, nor are we under the Law (like Israel)... BUT we are ALL sinners, under the universal curse of death. Unlike Israel, the church does not have to offer sacrifices in the Temple or keep certain feast days so that our sin can be covered, because Christ IS our perfect sin offering. His death on the cross has dealt with ALL our sin.. both our imputed sin nature and our personal sins. 

Before the cross men were sinners and death was the consequences of their sin nature, but God 'overlooked' their personal sin - but they all needed a Saviour. Those who believed His word were justified by faith as they looked forward to their promised Saviour and would redeem them from the slave-market of sin.

Before the cross Israel were equally sinners who needed to be justified by their faith in God's word, and their sins were covered with the blood of innocent animal sacrifices, until their promised Messiah came to earth to save His people, by dying for them on the cross.  They believed in God, but were also to believe in His only begotten Son - their Messiah, Who was the sacrificial Lamb of God, Who takes away the sin of the world.

During this church age we are also justified by God's grace and forgiven of all our sin - by faith. We were not born before the Law, nor are we living under the Law. We are living in the age of grace and believe that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. He washed away the stain of sin with His own blood and imputed us His own perfect righteousness.

What a blessing to understand that ALL Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. However, it is increasingly necessary to rightly divide the Word of Truth so that we do not find ourselves trying to live under the Law or living before the Law, instead of rejoicing that we are not living under the Law, but under Grace.

My Prayer

Heavenly Father, thank You that I am living in this Church dispensation and that we are not under Law but under Grace. Thank You for Your word of truth, which shows Your perfect plan of redemption.. slowly unfolding from Adam to Abraham and from Moses and the Law to Christ Jesus and the age of grace. Thank You that by faith in Christ Jesus... my God and Saviour, my sin has been forgiven by faith in Him and I have been covered with His perfect righteousness. Help me to live in a way that honours You and continue to open my eyes to see wonderful things in Your word of truth - this I ask in Jesus' name, AMEN.

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