Beyond Belief
by E.H. ‘Jack’ Sequeira

Chapter 6 – The Two Adams:  1 Corinthians 15

In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul repeats to the Christians in Corinth the same ideas regarding the two Adams he had presented tothe Roman believers in Romans 5.  Briefly, here is what Paul is saying in 1 Corinthians 15:19-23, 45-49.

Verses 19-20.  Correcting those who denied the resurrection, Paul points out that the great hope of the Christian 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].

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.  That which Christ realized for all mankind will be the situation of the redeemed.  “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive” [1 Corinthians 15:22].

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 hummanity who are “in Him” [see 2 Corinthians 5:17].

The Two Adams Summarized

Let’s summarize what we have learned from this detailed study of Paul’s teaching about the two Adams.

  1. 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 death.

  2. 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; 2 Timothy 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].

  3. 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 in 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.

  4. 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 judgment, 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].

  5. 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 condtinue 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 good-bye to sin and death and to say hello to eternal life [see Romans 5:21; 6:14, 22-23].

  6. 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].

  7. 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 the whole world as a testimony to all nations” [Matthew 24:14].

God will judge each of us on judgment day based on the deliberate choice we make concerning the two Adams. “This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses.  Now choose life, so that you and your children may live” [Deuteronomy 30:19].

Conclusion

The clear teaching of the two Adams is that our hope rests entirely on Christ, our righteousness, for “no one will be declared righteous in [God’s] sight by observing the law” [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 love (agape), for he was created in God’s image, and God is agape [see Genesis 1:26; John 4:24; 1 John 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:

  1. His sinless life became guilty of sin [see Genesis 2:17; 3:6-7].

  2. His guilty life came under the condemnation of the law, the penalty of which is death [see Ezekiel 18:4, 20].

  3. 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; 2 Peter 2:19].

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:

  1. a life that has sinned [see Romans 5:12];

  2. a life that is condemned by the law (this means that the just demands of the law leave us facing nothing by eternal death) [see John 3:36; 1 Corinthians 15:22; Revelation 20:14-15]; and

  3. a life that is in bondage to sin and the devil [see John 8:34; Romans 7:14; 1 John 3:8].

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.

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; 1 Corinthians 12:13-14], is Christ’s righteous life multiplied [see Romans 8:29; Hebrews 2:11; 1 John 3:1-2].

Through His “indescribable 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:

  1. a life that has perfectly obeyed the law in every detail [see Matthew 5:17; Romans 10:4];

  2. a life that has condemned and conquered the power of sin in the flesh [see John 8:46; Romans 8:2-3];

  3. a life that Christ submitted to the full wages of sin on the cross [see Romans 5:8, 10; Philippians 2:8]; and

  4. a life that has overcome death and the grave [1 Corinthians 15:55-58; Hebrews 2:14-15].

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 demands 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].

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 expaerience because the fruits of this doctrine lead to holy living, or sanctification.  “You will know the truth,” Jesus said, “and the truth will set you free” [John 8:32].


Key Points in Chapter 6
• The Two Adams:  1 Corinthians 15 •
  1. Adam’s sin brought all humanity under the death sentence — both the first and second deaths.

  2. Christ’s obedience saved all humanity from the second death and pronounced the verdict of justification on all mankind.

  3. 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].

    1. 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.

    2. Through His “indescribable 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.

  4. 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].

  5. 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.

  6. We cannot choose to remain in Adam and, at the same time, accept by faith to be in Christ.

  7. Our eternal destiny depends on which humanity we choose — that of Adam or that of Christ.

Home
Study Materials
 
Back
   
Next