Because Adam sinned, death came into the world and we are all born separated from God. Even before the law was given, death reigned in the world.
Through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin. After Adam sinned (Genesis 3) death spread to all men. “Death” in the Bible often means separation. We use the term death in English in the same way. When we say a relationship has died, it means the people who were connected are now separated, we have all sinned.
Spiritual death is a result of Adam’s fall. Along with Adam and Eve, we as humans are all spiritually separated from God, with no means to heal the separation through our own efforts. Paul calls this (in Ephesians 2:1) being “dead in our trespasses and sins.” Just as with Abraham, Paul, and the Roman believers, it was Adam and Eve’s belief in God’s promise that gave them spiritual life, in the instance of Adam and Eve God’s promise of a deliverer (which was fulfilled in Jesus) in Genesis 3:15.
The first physical “death” Adam and Eve experienced for themselves included exile from the Garden. Exile is a separation. Adam and Eve also experienced the death of an animal to create a covering for themselves. They experienced a break in their legal relationship with God when they broke the one rule He gave them, and a break in their fellowship with God as they hid from God (where they previously would have met Him to walk and talk together). Adam and Eve experienced a breach in their relationship, as evidenced when Adam blamed both God and Eve for what he was responsible for. Later, they experienced the physical death of one son at the hand of another son (Cain killing Abel).
Even though we who have believed are now standing in the grace of God as being righteous before God, we still live in a world that is yet to be redeemed, a world that is full of sin and death. Just as sin and death entered the world through one man, life and freedom from the wrath of sin also came through one man, the God-man, the second Adam, Jesus.
Jesus came to provide deliverance from the penalty, as well as the power, of sin. When we believe, we are freed from the penalty of sin immediately. We are then given the Spirit to indwell in us, as well as the resurrection power of Jesus to be able to overcome the power of sin in our daily lives when we walk daily by faith. Eventually, Jesus will return to earth and vanquish sin and death permanently.
Paul says sin was in the world but it was not counted when there is no law, and to this point, the law was not given. Even so, as the next verse states, death was in the world from then until Moses. An application here seems to be that the consequences of sin are in effect even when people live in ignorance.
12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—
13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law.
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