1. Paul deals with actual sin against (the) law throughout Romans 1:18-3:20. He teaches that sin is grounded in and defined by law which holds us accountable (3:19f.). In light of this, the presumption that his assertion in 5:12 that “all (have) sinned” (cf. 3:23) refers to actual sin is immense. See further 4 below.
2. According to Romans 1:26f., human beings are required to act according to their (birth) nature. If we are born sinful, then we are under compulsion to sin or be convicted of sinning against nature. This point is underlined by 2:14. The logic of sin by (birth) nature suggests that when the Gentiles do by nature what the law requires, they are behaving sinfully! At this point we are clearly in the realm of absurdity. The plain truth is that will precedes nature (cf. John 8:34; Eph. 2:1-3). Our moral nature is acquired by breaking or keeping the law as it was in the case of Adam and Eve who without the commandment knew neither good nor evil.
3. Sin is a work of disobedience performed against law, while righteousness is a work of obedience performed according to law (Rom. 2:12f.,27; 9:31f., etc.).
4. Next, the implication of Romans 4:1-8 is that if the imputation of Adam’s sin exists, it cannot by definition deserve death (4:1-8, cf. 6:23; 8:10). Bluntly, imputation (free gift) and wages are mutually exclusive. So, since according to 5:12 death is the result of sin, the latter MUST be actual not imputed. Imputation, which does not pay wages, is necessarily excluded. Thus the so-called doctrine of the imputation of Adam’s sin is built on a glaring fallacy.
5. Paul consistently and persistently insists that where there is no law there is no sin (Rom. 4:15; 5:13; 7:1-13; 9:11). Apart from law (and/or knowledge, 1:20; 2:1; 3:20; 7:1,7, cf. 1 Sam. 22:15; John 9:41; 15:22,24, etc.) sin does not exist as, for example, in the animal world (cf. Ps. 32:9). Only the Pharisees, in contrast with Jesus (John 9:3), maliciously and fallaciously imputed sin to babies (John 9:2,34).
6. The woman whose husband had died was free to marry again since the law against her re-marriage died with her husband. Like him, it was as dead (7:2-3,8).
7. In conformity with his basic argument that where there is no law there is no sin, contrary to most modern translations (contrast KJV) Paul is telling us in 7:5 that the morally neutral natural passions are constituted sinful only when they involve infraction of (the) law (cf. 1:26f.). It is the law precisely that gives sin its sinful character when transgression occurs (7:13). With 7:1-3 in mind we can illustrate his point by saying that David was free to give rein to his passions with Abigail whose husband was dead but not with Bathsheba whose husband was very much alive. The difference lay not in the respective passions, which were a law to themselves (7:23), but in the moral law. While the flesh follows the law of its own nature, the mind discriminates according to revealed law*. And since even the well-disposed mind (7:22; Ps. 119:14, etc.) cannot stem the tide of fleshly sin, the empowering Spirit of Christ is a dire necessity (8:2, cf. 13:14; Gal. 5:16f.).
8. In 7:9f. Paul implies that as a baby he did not know the law, so he could neither keep it nor break it. However, like Adam and Eve in the Garden after the commandment was given, he sinned and earned its wages (cf. 5:12). In light of this, we are again forced to deny that babies who lack the law in any form can be either sinful or righteous (cf. Dt. 1:39, etc.). Judgement by works (2:6) is impossible for them. This inference drawn from 7:9 is reinforced by 9:11. In the womb Esau and Jacob, like Adam and Eve before they received the commandment, did neither good nor evil. Their moral innocence was essential to Paul’s argument regarding election.
9. As he implied in 7:5, Paul tells us in 7:14 that it is the flesh in conflict with law that gives rise to sin (cf. Gen 3:6; James 1:14f.). The flesh cannot cope with the (spiritual) law. In the flesh only Jesus succeeded (8:3, contrast Ps. 143:2), as God always intended (3:20; 11:32; Acts 17:30f.; Gal. 3:22; Heb. 4:15, etc.).
10. Animal death (cf. Ps. 49:12,20, etc.), which occurs apart from transgression of the law, proves conclusively that the futility to which Paul refers in 8:18-25 has nothing to do with original sin and its consequent curse. Since the physical creation is corruptible by nature and physical death is universal, living according to the flesh, like living on bread alone, leads inevitably to death (8:13, cf. Gal. 6:8; John 6:49). Even Jesus grew older (Luke 2:41-52; John 8:57) and would have died if he had remained flesh and blood on the earth (1 Cor. 15:50). Even he who was flesh had to be born again or from above (John 3:1-7) to enter the kingdom of heaven. The attempt to link Romans 8:18-25 with Genesis 3:17-19, based as it is on the unbiblical notion of original sin, must be regarded as abortive.
* It has been truly, if crudely, said that an erect penis has no conscience. Sex (procreation, see Gen. 1;19:31), like death (Jos. 23:14; 1 K. 2:2), is the way of all the earth and is designed to counter the effects of death (cf. Heb. 7:23). In heaven it does not exist (Luke 20:34-36).
A brief syllogism:
First premise: Sin, which is a work, pays the wages of death (Rom. 6:23).
Second premise: Imputation, which is a free gift, excludes wages (Rom. 4:1-8).
Therefore, since according to Romans 5:12 the sin of all paid the wages of death to all, imputation is ruled out of court.
As noted above, the very notion of the imputation of Adam’s sin apart from faith is based on a glaring fallacy.