In Romans 5:23, Paul makes this statement:

To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law.

Romans 5:13 (NIV)

What is Paul saying here? Is he saying that before the Mosaic Law, no one who died was accountable for their sin?

We must examine the context to best understand what Paul is saying in Romans 5:13. In Romans 5:12, Paul gives us this insight:

Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned—

Romans 5:12 (NIV)

If everyone sinned and died because of what Adam did, there must have been some law at work. Right? Indeed there was.

In Genesis 2:17, God gave Adam this command.

“But you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

Genesis 2:17 (NIV)

However, Adam ate from the tree and brought sin into the world, and because of Adam, we all sinned. This sin is called the “sinful nature.”

Paul discusses the concept of the sinful nature in Romans 7.

For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.

Romans 7:18 (NIV)

This sinful nature is what everyone is born into and why everyone after Adam sinned.

Before Cain murdered Abel, the Lord warned him about sin.

If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”

Genesis 4:7 (NIV)

After Cain killed Abel, God cursed him because Cain was accountable for his sin. God warned Cain, but he ignored him.

In Noah’s time, the world flooded because the people were sinful. However, Noah was different.

This is the account of Noah and his family. Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God.

Genesis 6:9 (NIV)

If Noah was righteous and God spared him because of his righteousness, then everyone else wasn’t righteous and died because of their sin. Later, when the Lord destroyed Sodom, it was because of their sin.

Then the Lord said, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know” (emphasis added).

Genesis 18:20-21 (NIV)

Although the people in Noah’s time and those from Sodom and Gomorrah weren’t given a specific command, like Adam or Cain, they sinned under what Paul introduced in Romans 2—God’s Moral Law.

(Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.) This will take place on the day when God judges people’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.

Romans 2:14-16 (NIV)

God’s Moral Law is how people not under the Mosaic Law will be judged both before and after the Mosaic Law. Thus, we can see that before the Mosaic Law, people were accountable for their actions.

Do you know the Lord? If you don’t know God, then know that God knows you and loves you. God doesn’t want anyone to perish but for everyone to come to repentance so they can spend eternity with him. If you want to know God and be saved from your sins, then pray this prayer with me to accept the gift of salvation:

Lord Jesus, forgive me for all my sins. I sincerely repent from my ways. Wash me in your blood and cleanse me from all unrighteousness. I believe you died on the cross and were buried, and God the Father raised you from the dead on the third day. Right now, Lord Jesus, I open the door to my heart and receive you into my heart as my Lord and personal Savior. Amen.

If you prayed that prayer, then congratulations! You are on the first step of a brand new life. Allow me to be the first to welcome you to my family, the family of God. There are abundant resources available online for new Christians. You can visit here for more information on what to do next. You can also leave me a comment, and I’ll do my best to help you on the next step of this incredible journey.