“For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death“
In the thought of the theologians of the period (the 2nd Century A.D.), it is evident that salvation from death equals salvation from the rule of sin. Irenaeos writes, “Because death reigned in the body, it was necessary and proper, by means also of one body, that death be abolished and man freed from its oppression. Thus, the Logos became flesh that, by means of a body through which sin had prevailed and remained and reigned, death be abolished and no longer be in US,” “God recapitulated in Himself the ancient creature in order to put sin to death, to deprive death of its power, and to give life to man.”
If Christ had not abolished death, sin would continue to rule. “For if Christ be not risen ye are yet in your sins,” Irenaeos similarly emphasizes, “Those, then, who argue that Christ has only the appearance of a man without being born in the flesh and, therefore, without truly becoming man, remain under the old condemnation as co-workers of sin since, according to them, death is not abolished which reigned from Adam to Moses and even ruled over those who did not sin in the same manner as the transgression of Adam,”
It is noteworthy that during this period (the 2nd Century A.D.), the interpretation of the phrase “because of which all have sinned” never appears to be the problem that it became later. This silence is powerful proof that doubt did not exist about the meaning of this passage. If there had been a problem with this passage, the Gnostics would have exploited it easily to support their belief in the fall of souls in a previous existence. The two later interpretations, “in Adam all have sinned” and “because all have sinned,” would have been tantamount to a powerful argument in support of such heretical teachings about the fall.
Nowhere does a problem arise regarding “because of which” and its meaning or regarding the fact that death was viewed as the root from which sin springs up. This firmly justifies the view that the passage was naturally understood by the writers of the period to mean “because of death all have sinned.” The case for this is made strongly by Irenaeos, who uses the phrase “because of death” etiologically (the study of causation). In this vein, he speaks of “the passions that have naturally befallen us because of death; I refer to grief and cowardice and perplexity, distress and all the rest by which our nature afflicted with death and corruptibility is known.” “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men, because of which [death] all have sinned.”
—Protopresbyter John S. Romanides