by E.H. ‘Jack’ Sequeira
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 [see Romans 5:12, 18; 1 Corinthians 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 all will be made alive [1 Corinthains 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 the 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 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.
Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all 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 because all sinned. This last phrase has generated endless controversies in the history of the Christian church. Did Paul means that all die because all sinned personally as did Adam? Or did he mean that all die because all sinned in Adam?
The conclusion we reach has important implications for our salvation, since Pauls purpose in discussing Adam is to use him as a pattern of Christ. I believe that when we carefully consider this context of this passage and the logic of Pauls 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 sinned in Adam. Pauls logic is that all humanity was in Adam when he sinned and, therefore, the whole human race was implicated, or participated, in Adams 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.
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 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 condmn 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 Pauls 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 sins. 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, Adams 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 good-bye to life forever. Had there been no lamb that was slain from the creation 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 Adams 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 [meaning all mankind, or all people]. In the same way, when Christ obeyed, He not only redeemed humanity from the results of Adams sin, but, much more, He cancelled all our personal sins (many trespasses) and brought the verdict of justification that brings 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 Adams sin caused for us. It made all men into sinners. This means that, in addition to condemnation and the death sentence that we receive 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 Christs obedience, we will be made righteous. Notice that Paul uses the future tense here will be made righteous indicating that this applies to those who receive Jesus Christ [see verse 17]. To demonstrate that Adams 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 Adams one sin (the trespass, verse 20) has produced a whole race of sinners. Again, the good news is that, although sin multiplied through Adams fall, Gods grace in Christ has increased 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 gift [verse 16], something freely given to us. This means that, although all have been legally justified in Christs 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 Gods gift of justification will enjoy the benefits of Christs obedience. Paul makes this clear in verse 17.
Second, Paul repeatedly uses the expression much more when pointing to the blessings we receive through Christs obedience. In Christ, much more has been accomplished than simply undoing the damage we inherit from Adam. For example, by His death, Christ not only liberated humanity from the condemnation of death resulting from Adams one sin. Much more, He redeemed us from our own many [personal] tresspasses and brought justification [verse 16]. In Christ, not only do we receive eternal life, but much more we shall reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ [verse 17]. This is superabundant grace.
Thus Paul concludes where sin increased, grace increased all the more [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 Pauls argument of the two Adams in Romans 5?
This is Pauls 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.