Effects of the Fall Reversed: Romans 5:12–21 and Romans 16:1–12

reversal of fall

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4) Rom 5:12–21 and Rom 16:1–12: An important key to understanding this text involves the corporate solidarity of patrimonial headship within Ancient Near Eastern societies: the head of a family represented every member of his clan, both for good and for ill (2 Sam 21:1–9; Jer 35; Dan 6:24).[1]

Thus, this passage focuses upon the contrasting effects of the lives of Adam and of Christ.[2]

Due to this theological reality, death comes to all people, for we all sinned collectively in the first transgression of Adam (Gen 2:16–17; Gen 3:1–7).[3]



Unlike most writers of his era, Paul blamed neither Eve nor Satan for sin’s entry into the world.[4]

The sin of the first Adam plunged us into ruin by representation and imputation. In contrast, the obedience of the Second Adam redeemed us by representation and imputation (1 Cor 15:21–22). On the cross, Jesus took my place and paid the penalty for my sin. Similarly, God charged his righteousness to me (2 Cor 5:21).[5]

Consequently, when the Father looks at me, he sees Jesus, for the blood of Christ covers all my sin (Ps 103:10–13). Consider the great magnitude of this promise: we can travel to the top of the North and visit the bottom of the South of our planet, but we can never reach the end of the East or the West.

By his one act of sacrifice following a blameless life, Christ has reversed the effects of the fall (Gen 3:16).[6]

Now Jesus reigns in the place of Adam and calls us to rule over creation with him (Gen 1:26–28).[7]



As Christians in Rome heard this letter for the first time, they could see a prime example of the effects of this new era in front of them.

Paul wrote, “I commend to you Phoebe, our sister, being a deacon of the church in Cenchreae, that you might receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and that you might put yourselves at her disposal in any task in which she might have need, for she also has been a patron of many and also to me” (Rom 16:1–2).

The apostle employed the word translated as “deacon” (diakonon) to describe himself and his coworkers in 2 Cor 6:4 and in his charge to church leaders in 1 Tim 3:8–13.[8]



Note that the first word in 1 Tim 3:11 can be translated as “Women” or “Wives” (gynē), with most scholars holding to the first option.[9] Due to the form of the noun and the lack of a possessive pronoun in the Greek text, the translation “Their wives” requires grammatical gymnastics.

Furthermore, both “women” and “deacons” (1 Tim 3:8) appear in the same noun case (accusative plural).



In Paul’s greetings to the church of Rome in Rom 16:1–12, seven of the twenty-seven people he greeted by name were women.[10]

They served as “a deacon,” his “fellow workers” (synergos),[11] women who “worked very hard” (kopiaō) for the Lord or for the church,[12] and a woman who was “outstanding (episēmos) among (ev) the apostles.”[13]

In five of the seven times the New Testament mentions Paul’s co-workers Priscilla and Aquila, her name comes before his (Cf. Acts 18:1–3, 18–20, 24–26; 1 Cor 16:19; 2 Tim 4:19).[14]

That was quite rare in the Greco-Roman era, pointing to Priscilla’s prominence in ministry.[15]

John Chrysostom (347–407) wrote concerning Junia, “How great is the devotion of this woman, that she should be even counted worthy of the appellation (name) of apostle!”[16]



Regarding those who had “devoted themselves to the service (diakonia) of God’s people,”[17] Paul charged the church in Corinth.[18] He told them “to submit to such as these and to everyone who joins in the work, and labors at it” (1 Cor 16:15–16).[19]

Concerning this last passage, some translations add the word “men,” possibly due to the masculine plural form found in “such as these.” However, in Greek, a masculine plural can apply to either men alone or include women in a group of mixed gender.[20]



The Greco-Roman patronage system consisted of asymmetrical relationships between two parties. One person provided food, money, hospitality, advice, and/or introductions to powerful people in exchange for public praise and loyalty.[21]

Almost certainly the carrier of this letter,[22] Paul’s commendation of Phoebe indicates that she functioned as his envoy.[23]

Thus, Phoebe publicly read Paul’s epistle to the congregation, provided commentary,[24] and answered any immediate questions raised by the book of Romans.[25]

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Read Rom 5:12–21 and Rom 16:1–12: What was the result of Adam’s sin? Why does the death and resurrection of Jesus reverse the effects of the fall? How does God view you? Why did Phoebe’s task provide an object lesson for Paul’s teaching about life after Christ’s victory? What is the significance of the greetings at the end of Romans? How should these passages impact our churches today?







Go to Unity in the Spirit (Eph 5:18–21)

[Related posts include Forbidden Fruit (Gen 2:16–17); Not Good! (Gen 2:18); An Equal and Adequate Partner (Gen 2:21–23); Serpents in the Ancient Near East (Gen 3:1); A World-Altering Conversation (Gen 3:2–5); Succumbing to Temptation (Gen 3:6); Their Eyes Are Opened (Gen 3:7); Hiding from God (Gen 3:8); A Day of Reckoning (Gen 3:9–13); The First Good News (Gen 3:15); An Anguishing Process (Gen 3:16); Thorns and Thistles (Gen 3:17–18); A Return to the Ground (Gen 3:19); Satan Tempts Christ (Matt 4:1–4); A Second Temptation (Matt 4:5–7); The Third Temptation (Matt 4:8–11); Apostles to the Apostles (Matt 28:5–7); A Restoration of Status (Matt 28:10); The Death of God (John 19:28–30); Partners in Ministry (Acts 18:1–3, 18–20, 24–26 and 2 Ki 22:11–23:4); Women Praying and Prophesying (1 Cor 11:4–6 and 1 Cor 14:34–35); Having Authority over Her Head (1 Cor 11:7–10); Interdependence (1 Cor 11:11–12); New Creatures in Christ (2 Cor 5:17); Receiving Christ’s Righteousness (2 Cor 5:21); Falling for Deception (2 Cor 11:3–4); Blessings from the Father (Eph 1:3–4); Adopted as Sons (Eph 1:5–6); Redemption through Christ’s Blood (Eph 1:7–8); Obedient to the Point of Death (Phil 2:8); The Name Above Every Name (Phil 2:9–11); and Our Great High Priest (Heb 2:14–18)]

[Click here to go to Women and Marriage Throughout Redemptive History; or to Chapter 8: Pain and Desire (Genesis 3:16, 20)]


[1] Niehaus, Ancient Near Eastern Themes in Biblical Theology, 138.

[2] Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, 316.

[3]C. E. B. Cranfield, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, Vol. 1 (ICC; New York: T & T Clark International, 2004), 277–8.

[4]James D. G. Dunn, Romans 1–8 (WBC; Dallas: Word, 1998), 272.

[5]R. C. Sproul, The Gospel of God: An Exposition of Romans (Great Britain: Christian Focus, 1994), 107.

[6] Moo, “Nature and the New Creation: New Testament Eschatology and the Environment,” 458, http://www.etsjets.org/files/JETS-PDFs/49/49-3/JETS_49-3_449-488_Moo.pdf.

[7]N. T. Wright, “Excursus on Paul’s Use of Adam,” in The Lost World of Adam and Eve: Genesis 2–3 and the Human Origins Debate (John H. Walton; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2015), 170–80, 174.

[8]A. J. Gordon, “The Ministry of Women,” in The Missionary Review of the World (New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1894), 910–21, 916–7, http://www.biblesnet.com/AJ%20Gordon%20The%20Ministry%20of%20Women.pdf.

[9]William D. Mounce, Pastoral Epistles (WBC; Dallas: Word, 2000), 202–3.

[10]Stanley J. Grenz and Denise Muir Kjesbo, Women in the Church: A Biblical Theology of Women in Ministry (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1995), 85.

[11]Danker, et al., “συνεργος” (synergos), BDAG, 969.

[12]Danker, et al., “κοπιαω” (kopiaō), 558.

[13]Danker, et al., “ἐπισημος” (episēmos), 378.

[14]Philip H. Towner, The Letters to Timothy and Titus (NICNT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006), 651.

[15]Walter L. Liefeld, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus (NIVAC; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999), 301.

[16]John Chrysostom, The Homilies of S. John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople, on the Epistle of St. Paul the Apostle to the Romans (trans. J. B. Morris; Oxford; London: Parker; Rivington, 1841), 489, https://archive.org/stream/homiliesofsjohnc07john#page/488/mode/2up.

[17]Danker, et al., “διακονια” (diakonia), 230.

[18]Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, Rev. ed., 918.

[19]Danker, et al., “συνεργος”  (synergos), BDAG, 969. This is the same verbal root used for “fellow-worker.”

[20]Richard N. Longenecker, Galatians (WBC; Dallas: Word, 1998), 297.

[21] Cohick, Women in the World of the Earliest Christians, 289.

[22] Cranfield, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, 2:780.

[23]Colin G. Kruse, Paul’s Letter to the Romans (PNTC; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2012), 553.

[24]E. Randolph Richards, Paul and First Century Letter Writing: Secretaries, Composition, and Collection (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 202.

[25]Allan Chapple, “Getting Romans to the Right Romans: Phoebe and the Delivery of Paul’s Letter,” TynBul 62, no. 2 (1 November 2011): 195–214, 213–4, http://www.tyndalehouse.com/Bulletin/62=2011/03_Chapple.pdf.