If Romans 5:12 refers to the imputation of Adam’s sin, why:
(1) the long list of actual sins universally committed (1:18-3:20,23)?
(2) the stress on law and knowledge (4:15; 7:1,7)?
(3) the emphasis on works including the repeated use of verbs expressing action like doing (poiein: 1:28,32, etc.), practising (prassein: 1:32; 2:1-3, etc.) and working (katergazomai: 1:27; 2:9)? Cf. 1 Sam. 20:1,32, cf. 19:5; Luke 23:15,41, etc.
(4) the difference between justification by works and by faith (3:21f.; 4:2-6)?
(5) the distinction between imputation and wages in 4:1-8 (cf. 6:23) ?
(6) the difference between (actual) sin committed before Moses and sin like that of Adam after Moses (5:14, cf. 2:12f.)?
(7) the distinction between the sin of Eve and that of Adam (1 Tim. 2:14; 2 Cor. 11:3)?
(8) the distinction between the free gift (righteousness) and the unspecified effect of Adam’s sin leading to death in 5:15-21?
(9) the distinction between wages (death) and the free gift (life) in 6:23?
The traditional Protestant assertion is that Adam’s sin was imputed to all human beings at birth (with the apparent exception of Jesus despite Luke 3:38; Heb. 2:17, etc.) making them liable to the wages of death. This is a contradiction in terms since imputation excludes wages (Rom. 4:1-8). It should further be noticed that infants lack both law and knowledge and are hence incapable of faith and action leading to obedience or disobedience. Thus, we are bound to infer that since they are not under law, they cannot be held accountable by it (3:20), and since they are incapable of works, they cannot be judged by them (2:1-13).
For infants there is no law (Dt. 4:10; 31:12f.), no knowledge (Dt. 1:39; Ps. 78:5-8, cf. Isa. 7:15f.; 8:4), no faith, no truth (Rom. 2:20), no works of obedience or of disobedience (Dt. 6:25; Rom. 6:16-18; 1 John 3:4,7) and hence no judgement (Rom. 2:1-13; 3:20). In light of this we are forced to the conclusion that they are innocent like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden before they became aware of the commandment (Gen. 2:17). For where there is no law or knowledge (John 9:41; 15:22,24) there can be no transgression (4:15; 5:13; 7:1-11). Thus Jonathon (1 Sam. 14:27), Ahimelech (22:15), Abigail (25:25) and David (2 Sam. 3:26,28) being ignorant were all guiltless.
The truth is that Romans 5:12 and 6:23 are in basic harmony. Both refer to the death of all on account of the sin of all (cf. 3:9,12,23) as God intended (3:20,23f.; 4:2; 11:32; 1 Cor. 1:29; Gal. 2:16;3:11,22; Eph. 2:9). In the flesh (Rom. 8:3) only Jesus kept the law (1 Pet. 2:22), inherited the life it promised (Gen. 2:17; Lev. 18:5; Mark 1:11) and died for his people’s sins (1 Pet. 2:24), the righteous for the unrighteous (3:18).
Throughout Scripture the imputation of sin to those who, like infants (cf. Num. 14:3,29-33; Dt. 1:39; Isa. 7:15f.), have not committed it is evil (Ex. 23:7; 32:33; Dt. 24:16; 1 Sam. 19:5; 20:32; 2 Sam. 24:10,17; 1 K. 21; Ezek. 18:4,20; Mt. 27:23; Luke 23:14f.,22, etc.). It was uniquely by faith that sin was imputed to Jesus enabling him to die on our behalf (John 10:17f.; 2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Pet. 3:18).