Return to Gods Love for UsBeyond Belief
The teaching of the two Adams is one of the most neglected and misunderstood doctrines of the Bible. Yet it is vitally important to our salvation because the eternal destiny of all who have ever lived is closely connected with these two men—Adam and Christ, who is the "second Adam."
As we saw in the previous chapter, God created all mankind in one man—Adam (see Genesis 1:27, 28; Acts 17:26). Likewise, Satan ruined all mankind in one man –Adam (Romans 5:12, 18; 1Corintians 15:21,22). And God redeemed all mankind in one Man—Christ Jesus, the second Adam (see 1 Corinthians 1:30; Ephesians 1:3, 2:5, 6) Scripture is clear that "in Adam all die " and that "in Christ shall all be made alive " (1 Corinthians 15:22).
It is my conviction that we can never fully understand all the implications and privileges of our salvation "in Christ " until we come to realize our situation "in Adam. " Two New Testament passages—Romans 5:12-21 and 1 Corinthians 15:19-23; 45-49 explain in detail this important teaching of two Adams. Lets look carefully at what they have to say.
In Romans 5:11, the apostle Paul states a glorious truth of the gospel. He says that we Christians can rejoice because we have already received the atonement. Paul then goes on to explain in verses 12-21 how we have received this atonement. He does so by using Adam as a type, or pattern, of Christ (see verse 14). He argues that we are redeemed "in Christ " in the same way that we are lost "in Adam. " The history of these two men—Adam and Christ—has affected the eternal destiny of all mankind. In order to use Adam as a pattern of Christ, Paul first explains, in verses 12-14, what our situation is "in Adam. "
"By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned " (Romans 5:12). In this verse, Paul makes three statements about the sin problem. He says that sin entered the world (that is, human history) through one man—Adam. Second, he says that this sin condemned Adam to death. Third, Paul says that this death spread to all humanity "for that all have sinned. " This last phrase has generated endless controversies in the history of the Christian church. Did Paul mean that all die because "all have sinned " personally as did Adam?
The conclusion we reach has important implications for our salvation, since Paul's purpose in discussing Adam is to use him as a pattern of Christ. I believe that when we carefully consider the context of this passage and the logic of Paul's argument, as well as his teaching regarding justification by faith elsewhere throughout the New Testament, we must conclude that Paul is saying here in Romans 5:12 that death spread to all mankind because "all have sinned " in Adam. Paul's logic is that all humanity was "in Adam " when he sinned, and therefore the whole human race was implicated, or participated, in Adam's act of disobedience. Hence, Paul says, the condemnation of death that came to Adam automatically passed on to every human being.
I see five reasons to believe that this is what Paul is saying in this verse.
- It simply isn't true that everyone dies because they have personally sinned as Adam did. Babies, for example, die even though they have no personal sins. The only explanation for the fact that death is universal is that all sinned "in Adam."
- Grammatically, the Greek verb sinned in verse 12 is in the aorist tense. This tense normally refers to an act that took place in the past at a single point in time. Grammatically, then, "all have sinned " most naturally refers to a single past historical event (Adam's sin) and not to the continuing personal sins of his descendants over the centuries.
- Paul goes on to explain in verses 13 and 14 what he meant in verse 12. He says that all those who lived from Adam until Moses died even though they "had not sinned after the similitude [likeness] of Adam's transgression " (verse 14). Therefore, the immediate context of verse 12 contradicts the ideal that all die because they have sinned as Adam sinned.
- Four times in Romans 5:15-18 Paul explicitly states that Adam's sin (not our own personal sins) brought judgment, condemnation, and death to the whole human race. Thus the context of verse 12 clearly supports the idea that all die because "all have sinned" in Adam. In verse 19 Paul sums up his argument in unmistakable language. He says, "By one man's disobedience many were made sinners."
- The logic of Paul's argument in this passage is that Adam is a type, or pattern, of Christ—that what happened to us in Adam is undone for in Christ. Therefore, if we insist that verse 12 means that all men die because "all have sinned " as Adam sinned—then we must make the analogy fit by arguing that all men live (or are justified) because all have obeyed as Christ obeyed. Such an argument turns justification by faith into salvation by works, the very opposite of Paul's clear teaching in Romans. Paul's analogy here is that since "all have sinned " in Adam and are therefore condemned to death in him, so all have obeyed in Christ and therefore stand justified to life in Him (see verse 18).
Now verses 13 and 14 make sense. In these verses, Paul is simply proving what he stated in verse 12—that all die because "all have sinned " in Adam. He does this by looking at a segment of the human race, those who lived from Adam until Moses. To be sure these people were sinning, but since God had not yet explicitly spelled out His law until He gave it to mankind as a legal code through Moses, He could not justly condemn these people to death for their personal sins. This is what Paul is saying in verse 13. Nevertheless, they were dying, as Paul points out in verse 14. Why? His answer is that they were dying because all humanity stands condemned to death in Adam.
In spite of what seems to me to be the clear evidence of Romans 5, some still feel they can harmonize Paul's logic in these verses with the idea that all men and women die because all have sinned personally as did Adam. They do so by insisting that the death Paul says we receive "in Adam " is only the first, or "sleep " death. We receive the "second " death—eternal death—they say, as a result of our own personal sin. Such reasoning will not stand the test of scripture, no matter how convincing it may sound. Paul uses the word death twice in Romans 5:12—once to refer to Adam and next to refer to humanity, Adam's posterity. In other words, Paul says the same death that came to Adam passed on to all humanity. What death was that—the first death or the second?
Before the fall, Adam surely knew nothing about the first death. Therefore, the death sentence pronounced on Adam when he sinned was the second death—eternal death. It was goodbye to life forever. Had there been no "lamb slain from the foundation of the world " (Revelation 13:8), Adam would have forfeited his life forever the day he sinned, and mankind would have died eternally in him (see Genesis 2:17). It is this death—the second death—that has passed to all mankind "in Adam." In Adam the whole human race belongs legally on death row. It is only in Christ that we can pass from eternal death to eternal life (see John 5:24; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; 2 Timothy 1:10; Revelation 20:6).
We must be very careful at this point not to go beyond what Scripture says. We must not teach that in Adam all humanity also inherits his guilt. This is the heresy of "original sin " introduced by Augustine and adopted by the Roman Catholic Church. Guilt, in a legal sense, always includes personal volition or responsibility, and God does not hold us personally responsible for something in which we had no choice. Only when we personally, consciously, deliberately, persistently, and ultimately reject the gift of eternal life in Christ does the guilt and responsibility of sin and the second death become ours (see John 3:18, 36; Mark 16:15; Hebrews 2:1-4; 10:14, 26-29).
Once Paul has established our situation in Adam (see Romans 5:12-14), he goes on to show how Adam is a type, or pattern, of Christ (see verses 15-18). He argues that just as Adam's sin affected all humanity for death, likewise, what Christ did as the second Adam also affected all humanity for life. When Adam sinned, Paul says, he brought the judgment of condemnation and death to "all men. " In the same way, when Christ obeyed, He not only redeemed humanity from the results of Adam's sin, but much more He canceled all our personal sins ( "many offenses ") and brought the verdict of "justification of life " to all men (verses 16, 18). This is the unconditional good news that the gospel proclaims. In verse 19, Paul adds another dimension to the problem Adam's sin caused for us. It "made " all men into sinners.
This means that in addition to condemnation and the death sentence that we received "in Adam," we are also born slaves to sin and are therefore incapable, in and of ourselves, of producing genuine righteousness (see Romans 3:9-12; 7:14-25). But in the second half of verse 19, Paul reminds us that because of Christ's obedience we shall be made righteous." Notice Paul uses the future tense here— "shall be made righteous "—indicating that this applies to those who receive Jesus Christ (see verse 17). To demonstrate that Adam's sin has made us slaves to sin, God gave His law (see verse 20; Romans 7:7-13). In other words, Paul is clear that God did not give us His law to solve the sin problem but to expose it. The law showed how Adam's one sin ( "the offence," verse 20) has produced a whole race of sinners. Again, the good news is that although sin multiplied through Adam's fall God's grace in Christ has multiplied all the more (see verse 20).
This brings us to the next important point concerning Romans 5. Notice that in this chapter, Paul mentions two things in connection with our situation in Christ that he does not apply to our situation in Adam. First, Paul refers to what God accomplished "in Christ " for all humanity as a "free gift " (verse 16). This means that although all have been legally justified in Christ's doing and dying, justification is still a gift. Like any gift, it belongs only to those who accept it. Only those who by faith receive God's gift of justification will enjoy the benefits of Christ's obedience. Paul makes this clear in verse 17.
Second, Paul repeatedly uses the expression "much more " when pointing to the blessings we receive through Christ's obedience. In Christ, much more has been accomplished then simply undoing the damage we inherit from Adam. For example, by His death Christ not only liberated humanity from condemnation of death resulting from Adam's one sin. Much more, He redeemed us from our own "many [personal] offenses unto justification " (verse 16). In Christ, not only do we receive eternal life, but much more we shall "reign in life by one, Jesus Christ " (verse 17). This is superabundant grace.
Thus Paul concludes "where sin abounded, grace did much more abound " (verse 20). As sin rules our lives from birth and results in death, Paul pleads for us to let grace now take over and reign in our lives, producing righteousness, until eternity is ushered in (see verse 21).
What conclusions, then, can we draw concerning our salvation from Paul's argument of the two Adams in Romans 5?
- Whether I am reckoned a sinner and condemned to death, or whether I am declared righteous and quality for eternal life, has to do with the history of Adam or of Christ. On the basis of Adam's disobedience I am reckoned a sinner; on the basis of Christ's obedience I am declared justified or righteous.
- If I belong to the humanity produced by Adam, I am made a sinner and am condemned to eternal death. If, however, I belong to the humanity initiated by Christ, I am declared righteous and quality for eternal life. In other words, my eternal destiny rests upon which humanity I choose to belong to.
- All of us by creation are "in Adam." This is the hopeless situation we inherit by birth into the human race. Hence we are "by nature the children of wrath " (Ephesians 2:3). But the good news is that God has given us a new identity and history "in Christ." This is His supreme gift to humanity. Our position "in Adam " is by birth. Our position "in Christ " is by faith. What God has done for the whole human race is given as a "free gift," something we do not deserve. That is why the gift is referred to as grace or unmerited favor. To be experienced, this gift must be received, and it is made effective by faith alone.
- Adam and Christ belong to opposite camps that cannot be reconciled. Adam is equated with sin and death; Christ with righteousness and life. Consequently, it is impossible for anyone to belong, subjectively, to Adam and Christ at the time. To accept Christ by faith means to renounce totally our position in Adam (see 2 Corinthians 5:17; 6:14-16). Baptism is a public declaration that we have died to sin (our position in Adam) and have been resurrected into newness of life (our position in Christ). See Romans 6:1-4, 8; 2 Timothy 2:11.
- Thus, the human race can be divided into two groups: (1) the Adamic race, made up of many nations and tribes (see Acts 17:26), and (2) believers who are all one in Christ (see Romans 12:5; 1 Corinthians 10:17; Galatians 3:27, 28; Ephesians 4:11-13). Because of the gospel, we have the choice to belong to either of these two groups. We may retain our position in Adam by unbelief—and reap the results of his sin. Or, by faith, we may become united to Christ and receive the benefits of His righteousness.
This is Paul's teaching in Romans 5 regarding the two Adams. In the next chapter we will examine what he has to say on this subject in 1 Corinthians 15 and then draw some conclusions for our own experience.
- In Romans 5, Paul says that men and women have already received the atonement. He supports this statement by using Adam as a pattern of Christ, whom he calls the "second Adam." Paul's argument is that we are redeemed "in Christ " the same way we are lost "in Adam."
- For Paul, "in Adam" means that all humanity stands condemned to death because we were all corporately "in Adam " when he sinned.
- Likewise, for Paul "in Christ " means that all humanity has been justified because we were all corporately "in Christ" when He obeyed and died.
- Paul does not mean that all humanity inherits Adam's guilt. This is the heresy of "original sin."
- In Romans 5, Paul mentions two things in connection with our situation "in Christ " that he does not apply to our situation "in Adam".
- What God accomplished for us "in Christ " is a free gift. Although we all have been justified corporately in Christ's life and death, justification is still a gift that belongs only to those who accept it.
- In Christ, mush more has been accomplished than simply undoing the condemnation we inherit from Adam. God's grace will abound in our lives to reign and produce righteousness.
- Paul's argument in Romans 5 concerning the two Adams can be summed up as follows: On the basis of Adam's disobedience, we are reckoned as sinners; on the basis of Christ's obedience we are declared justified.
In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul repeats to the Christians in Corinth the same ideals regarding the two Adams he had presented to the Romans believers in Romans 5. Briefly here is what Paul is saying in 1 Corinthians 15:19-23; 45-49.
According to 1 Corinthians 15:21-23, 45-49, there have been only two heads of the human race—Adam and Christ, who is the "last Adam" (verse 45). The destiny of the entire human race rests upon these two. Adam is the prototype of unredeemed humanity; Christ is the prototype of redeemed humanity. What is true of Adam is true of those who are "in him," and what is true of Christ is true of those who are "in Him." Adam's situation after the Fall is the situation of all the unredeemed. "As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive" (1 Corinthians 15:22).
- Verses 19, 20. Correcting those who denied the resurrection, Paul points out that the great hope of the Christians is to be raised to life. Christ Himself rose from the dead and is the "firstfruits" of those who are resting in their graves "in Christ." Paul goes on to explain that this hope is not built on the foundation of our goodness, but on our position "in Christ."
- Verse 21. Since death came to the whole human race through one man (notice that the word man is singular and refers to Adam according to the next verse), so through one Man (Christ) came resurrection from death.
- Verse 22. Death came upon all of us because of our position in "Adam." Likewise, resurrection and the hope of eternal life come to everyone who is "in Christ." The expressions "in Adam" and "in Christ" imply solidarity or corporate oneness.
- Verse 23. Christ, the prototype of all who are in Him, has already risen from the dead, thus guaranteeing that those who are His will be resurrected at His coming.
- Verse 45. The first Adam was a created being—that is, his life had a beginning and can therefore have an end. The second Adam (Christ) introduced the life-giving spirit, or eternal life.
- Verse 47. The first man, Adam, was made from the dust of the earth; his character was likewise carnal, earthly. The second man, Christ, was from heaven. His character was spiritual, godly.
- Verse 48. Just as the children of the earthly Adam reflect his earthly (sinful) nature and character, so those who belong to the heavenly Christ will reflect His heavenly (righteous) nature and character.
- Verse 49. Just as we all, by nature, are a reproduction of the earthly image of Adam, so likewise we shall reflect fully the image of Christ's resurrected nature at the second coming (see 1 Corinthians 15:50-54; Romans 8:23-25; Philippians 3:20, 21).
Christ's resurrection is the guarantee that all who belong to Him by faith will be raised to life at the second coming. Christ's righteousness, not our self-righteousness, qualifies us for heaven-—now and in the judgment.
In verse 45, Paul calls Christ the "last Adam." In verse 47, he refers to Him as the "second man." These terms have important implications. As the last Adam," Christ was the sum total of all that is comprehended in the "first Adam." As the "second man," He is the head of a new, redeemed race. Having gathered unto Himself all those who belonged to the first Adam, Christ superseded the whole Adamic race when He died on the cross. There He met the just demands of the law on our behalf (see 2 Corinthians 5:14, 1 Peter 2:24) and died the second death as the representative of the whole human race (see Hebrews 2:9). In this way He abolished death (see 2 Timothy 1:10).
Then, by His resurrection, Christ qualified to be the "second man," the head of a new redeemed humanity who are "in Him" (see 2 Corinthians 5:17).
The two Adams summarized
Lets summarize what we have learned from this detailed study of Paul's teaching about the two Adams.
God will judge each of us on the judgement day based on the deliberate choice we make concerning the two Adams. "I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that thou and thy seed may live" (Deuteronomy 30:19).
- Adam's sin brought all humanity under the death sentence---both the first and second deaths. The first death became necessary because the gospel shielded us from immediately suffering the actual wages of sin, the second derath.
- Christ's obedience saved all humanity from the second death and pronounced the verdict of justification on all mankind. On the cross Christ experienced and abolished only the second death, the curse of the law (see Hebrews 2:9; 2Timothy 1:10; Galatians 3:13). Since believers die the first death, the gospel obviously redeems us only from the second death (see Revelation 20:6).
- The whole force of the parallel between Adam and Christ (see Romans 5:12-21) depends on the idea of the solidarity of mankind in Adam and Christ. Of the 510 times the word Adam appears in the Old Testament, the great majority possess a collective significance. In the same sense, the New Testament calls Christ the "last" or "second" Adam.
- Salvation from the second death and the verdict of justification to life is God's supreme gift in Christ to all humanity (see John 3:16). This is the good news of the gospel. But like any gift, it has to be received in order to be enjoyed (see Romans 5:17). Those who knowingly, willfully, persistently reject God's gift of salvation in Christ are deliberately choosing the second death. Therefore, in the judgement God bestows on them what they have deliberately and persistently chosen. They can blame only themselves (and they will) when they face the second death (see John 3:18, 36; Mark 16:15, 16; Romans 14:11).
- Every baby is born subjectively under the reign of sin, condemnation, and death because of Adam's fall (see Romans 3:9-20). If we continue to live under this reign of sin and resist the grace of Christ, we will experience the second death. But objectively, Christ has delivered each of us from this reign of sin by His doing and dying; He has placed us under the reign of grace, righteousness, and eternal life. To accept this gift by faith is to say goodbye to sin and death and say hello to eternal life (see Romans 5:21, 6:14, 22, 23).
- We cannot choose to remain in Adam and at the same time accept by faith to be in Christ. To receive Christ, the author of righteousness means to renounce Adam, the author of sin (see Romans 6:15-18).
- Our eternal destiny depends on which humanity we have chosen. Unbelief means deliberately choosing to remain "in Adam" and the reign of sin and death. Belief means deliberately choosing to be "in Christ" and the reign of righteousness and eternal life. This is why God will not bring the sad history of this wicked world to a close until the gospel has been preached "in all the world for a witness" (Matthew 24:14).
The clear teaching of the two Adams is that our hope rests entirely on Christ, our righteousness, for "by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his [God's] sight" (Romans 3:20; cf. Galatians 2:16). Those who are justified by faith in Christ shall live (see Romans 1:17; Hebrews 2:4; Philippians 3:9).
At creation, God made Adam from the dust of the earth and breathed into him the breath of life so that Adam became a living person (see Genesis 2:7). The corporate life that Adam received from God was perfect and sinless, dominated by selfless lover (agape), for he was created in God's image, and God is agape (see Genesis 1:26; John 4:24; 1John 4:8, 16). After God created Adam and his companion, Eve, He commanded them to multiply His life and fill the earth with men and women who would reflect His character (see Genesis 1:28). This was God's original purpose for the world.
Unfortunately, before they could begin the multiplication process, Adam and Eve fell into sin. This affected the corporate life of Adam in three ways:
Since the whole human race is simply Adam's life multiplied, these three results of Adam's sin passed on to all of us. Thus the life we receive at birth is:
- His sinless life became guilty of sin (see Genesis 2:17; 3:6, 7).
- His guilty life came under the condemnation of the law, the penalty of which is death (see Ezekiel 18:4, 20).
- His perfect, sinless life became a sinful life. Instead of being under the control of the Spirit of agape, it came under the bondage of Satan and sin's self-love (see Isaiah 53:6; John 8:34; Philippians 2:21; 2Peter 2:19).
This is our situation "in Adam," and we can do nothing ourselves to change it. "In Adam," we have all sinned; we are in bondage to sin; we must all die. Without the gospel, in other words, we are hopelessly lost and doomed forever.
- a life that has sinned (see Romans 5:12);
- a life that is condemned by the law. This means that the just demands of the law leave us facing nothing but eternal death (see John 3:36; 1 Corinthians 15:22; Revelation 20:14, 15);
- a life that is in bondage to sin and the devil (see John 8:34; Romans 7:14; 1 John 3:8).
Christ was made flesh to deliver us from this situation and to restore God's original purpose for us. He came as the second head of Adam's race and introduced the reign of grace through His perfect life, death, and resurrection. The fallen human race is Adam's sinful life multiplied, but the body of Christ, His church (see Romans 12:5; 1Corinthians 12:13, 14), is Christ's righteous life multiplied (see Romans 8:29; Hebrews 2:11; 1John 3:1, 2).
Through His "unspeakable gift" (2 Corinthians 9:15), God has changed our hopeless situation in Adam and has given us a new identity and hope in Christ. At conversion, or the new-birth experience, we receive the very life of Christ (see John 3:3-6). This life, the corporate humanity that Christ assumed and that we receive by faith in Him, is:
All these facts become reality for us when we receive this life by faith. This life justifies us because it perfectly obeyed the law and met its just demand on behalf of our sins. It is also able to deliver us fully from the slavery of sin and produce in us the very righteousness of God, since it has already accomplished this in Christ's humanity (see 1 Timothy 3:16). Finally, this life will raise us from the dead and guarantee us eternity, for it is eternal life (see John 3:36; 6:27; 1 John 2:25).
- a life that has perfectly obeyed the law in every detail (see Matthew 5:17; Romans 10:4);
- a life that has condemned and conquered the power of sin in the flesh (see John 8:46; Romans 8:2,3);
- a life that Christ submitted to the full wages of sin on the cross (see Romans 5:8, 10; Philippians 2:8);
- a life that has overcome death and the grave (1 Corinthians 15:55-58; Hebrews 2:14, 15).
All who are "in Christ" have these privileges. As we learn to live by His life, instead of our own natural life, we truly abide in Him (see John 15:4-8). We walk in the light and in the Spirit (see 1 John 1:6, 7; Romans 8:4; Galatians 5:16). In later chapters, we will see that Christ's life abiding in us and dominating us is the means of our sanctification. Paul calls this "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Colossians 1:27). In Christ we possess a life that is greater than the power of sin and the devil (see 1 John 4:4). When this new life takes over, sin will be put to death in our lives, and Christ will be revealed (see Romans 8:9-14). This is how the earth will be lightened with the glory of God through His people. This will be God's final display before Christ comes (see Revelation 10:7: 18:1).
The doctrine of the two Adams is of utmost importance to understanding the objective gospel and justification by faith. But it is also of great practical value to our Christian experience because the fruits of this doctrine lead to holy living, or sanctification. "Ye shall know the truth," Jesus said, "and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32).
- Adam's sin brought all humanity under the death sentence---both the first and second deaths.
- Christ's obedience saved all humanity from the second death and pronounced the verdict of justification on all mankind.
- The force of Paul's parallel between Adam and Christ depends on the idea of the solidarity, or corporate oneness, of mankind in Adam and in Christ (see Romans 5:12-21).
- Since the whole human race is simply Adam's life multiplied, the results of his sin have passed on to all of us. The life we receive at birth is a life that (1) has sinned; (2) is condemned to eternal death by the law; and (3) is in bondage to sin and Satan.
- Through His "unspeakable gift"(2 Corinthians 9:15), God has given us a new identity in Christ. At conversion, we receive the very life of Christ---the corporate humanity that He assumed. This life has (1) perfectly obeyed the law; (2) condemned and conquered the power of sin; and (3) overcome death and the grave.
- Salvation from the second death and verdict of justification to life is God's supreme gift in Christ to all humanity (see John 3:16).
- Everyone is born subjectively under the reign of sin, condemnation, and death because of Adam's fall (see Romans 3:9-20). But objectively, Christ has delivered each of us by His life and death and has placed us under the reign of grace, righteousness, and eternal life.
- We cannot choose to remain in Adam and at the same time accept by faith to be in Christ.
- Our eternal destiny depends on which humanity we choose---that of Adam or that of Christ.
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