The Two Adams
An Exposition of Romans 5:11-21
Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
through whom we have now received reconciliation. Not only do we Christians rejoice in
God's unconditional love, which has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit (v.5-10),
but we also rejoice in the fact that we have already been fully reconciled to God
(received the atonement) through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, just as sin entered the word through one man, and death through sin, and
in this way death come to all men, because all sinned - This reconciliation or
atonement is ours in Christ in the same way sin, condemnation, and death became
ours in Adam (implied). Hence, Paul uses Adam as a model, type, or a pattern
of Christ (v.14, last part). The reason why Adam's sin brought universal death
is "because all sinned" in Adam, our father and representative, and not like
Adam, our personal sins.
Note: In his commentary on Romans, John Murray gives five
reasons why Paul meant in Adam and not like Adam:
- Historically, not all die because they sinned like Adam. For example, babies have
no personal sins, yet they die.
- The use of the aorist tense implies a once-for-all act in the past. Compare this with Romans
3:23 ("all sinned," i.e., in the past, also in the aorist tense, and
"all are coming short of God's glory" (i.e., sinning personally), in the
present continuous tense).
- In verses 13 and 14 (immediate context), the people who lived from Adam to Moses
were dying (i.e., before God gave mankind His law as a legal code), even though their sins
were unlike Adam's deliberate transgression of a law (Gen. 2:16,17).
- In verses 15-18 (unit context) Paul makes it clear that all men are judged,
condemned, and die because of Adam's sin, with no mention of their
- Paul is using Adam as a pattern or a type of Christ in Romans 5:12-21
(v. 14b). If we insist that all die because we all sinned personally like
Adam; for this analogy to fit Christ, we would have to teach that all live because all
have obeyed personally like Christ. Not only is this the very opposite of
Paul's thought, but we would be guilty of making him teach legalism, something he
fought against vehemently.
|...for before the law was given, sin was in the word. But sin is not taken into
account when there is no law. To prove his point, that all die because of Adam's
one sin, Paul describes the situation of the human race that lived from Adam to Moses. His
argument is that God could not legally or lawfully condemn these people for their personal
sins, which they were committing, since He had not yet posted His law as a legal code
|Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over
those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to
come. Nevertheless, they were dying; even though their sins were unlike the
willful violation of a law Adam had committed (see The Biblical
Definition of Sin for the meaning of "transgression"). Obviously then, they
were dying because they were implicated in Adam's transgression, their father and
representative. Note: Paul discusses mankind's situation in Adam in v. 12-14,
in order to use him as a pattern, type, or figure of the truth as it is in
Christ (see last part of v. 14). What Adam did affected all humanity; likewise,
what Christ did also affected all humanity (v.15). It is in this sense only
the two are similar, and, therefore, Adam can be used as a pattern of Christ.
reason Adam's sin brought condemnation and death to all mankind is not because
humanity is guilty of Adam's sin, but because Adam's sin was a representative
sin. We were in Adam by creation (Acts 17:26) and, therefore, were
implicated in his sin at the Fall. Likewise, by uniting Christ's divinity with our
corporate humanity that needed redeeming, in the incarnation, Christ qualified to be the
second Adam, our representative and substitute. His obedience can be lawfully credited to
all mankind since all obeyed in Christ. We were in Christ by God's act
of incarnation (1 Cor. 1:30) and therefore implicated in His obedience, i.e., in
His life, death, and resurrection (2 Cor. 5:14; Eph. 2:5,6).
The whole force of the parallel, in Romans 5:12-21, between Adam and Christ,
depends on the idea of the solidarity of mankind in Adam and in Christ. In
the great majority of the 510 times the word "Adam" is used in the Old Testament
Hebrew text, it possesses a collective significance. In the same sense, Christ is referred
to as the "last Adam" in the New Testament. In Him, all humanity was gathered up
and given a new history in which we stand justified.
|But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the
one man, how much more did God's grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one
man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! Hence, there is also a difference between
Adam and Christ. The difference is in what they did and the effect their acts had on
humanity. Adam "sinned" and that sin brought death to "the many,"
implying all humanity (see v. 18). In contrast, Christ "obeyed" and His
obedience also affected "the many" (i.e., all humanity); it gave eternal life to
all mankind. This is God's "gift of grace" which did "much more"
than undo the damage Adam did to the human race.
|Again, the gift of God is not like the result of the one man's sin: The
judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses
and brought justification. Adam's one sin resulted in the "judgment of
condemnation" on all humanity. But Christ's obedience did much more; it not only
met the just demands of Adam's one sin that condemns mankind but, more than that, it
also covered all their personal sins plus brought in the verdict of justification on all
humanity. (Please note that the word "trespasses" (or "offences") is
in the plural and is, therefore, referring to Adam's sin plus all our personal sins.)
This is the significance of the phrase "much more."
|For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how
much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of
righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. Because of Adam's
sin, death holds sway over all mankind. But God's "gift of grace" in
Christ is again "much more." Those who receive this gift (note: the gift has
to be received) will not only live (the opposite of death) but, "much more,"
they will reign with Christ throughout the ceaseless ages of eternity (Rev. 20:6; 22:5).
We are better off in Christ than we ever were in Adam, even before the Fall.
This is God's super abundant grace.
|Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so
also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all
men. Consequently, while Adam's one sin brought the verdict of condemnation upon
the whole human race; the unconditional good news of the gospel is that the obedience of
Christ brought the verdict of justification to life eternal unto all men.
|For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so
also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous. In addition
to the above, Adam's sin also "made" the human race into sinners (i.e.,
possessing a sinful nature that can do no righteousness). Likewise, Christ's
obedience also redeemed mankind's sinful nature so that believers "will be
made" righteous. (Note the future tense, i.e., at His second coming and applying only
to believers 1 Cor. 15:50-53; Phil. 3:20,21).
|The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased,
grace increased all the more, ... The reason why God introduced the law, after He gave
the promise of salvation as a free gift, was to convince mankind that Adam's one sin
had "made them all sinners," imprisoned in death row and in need of the Savior.
But where sin multiplied, in the lives of Adam's posterity, God's grace
multiplied all the more. For not only did God redeem the whole human race from Adam's
sin plus all their personal sins, but, much more, He made all humanity righteous, holy,
and blameless in Christ's holy history (Eph. 1:3-6).
|... so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through
righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Hence, just as sin
dominates all men from birth, and would do so until death; let grace now take over in your
lives (i.e., those that have received Christ), dominating you and producing
righteousness, until eternity is ushered in (at the second advent).
The Truth of the Two Adams
- Adam's sin deprived humanity of life and brought all mankind under the sentence of
eternal death, i.e., the second death. The first or sleep death became a necessity because
of the plan of redemption, while the second death is the wages of sin (Rom. 6:23).
- Christ's obedience (doing and dying) did two things for all mankind:
- It saved all humanity from the condemnation of the second or eternal death; and
- It brought the verdict of justification to eternal life upon all men (2 Tim. 1:8-10).
Note: Since Christians die the first death, the gospel obviously only redeems men and
women from the second death (Rev. 20:6). On the cross Christ "tasted" and
"abolished" only the second death, "the curse of the law" (Heb.
2:9; 2 Tim. 1:10; Gal. 3:13).
- Salvation from the second death and the verdict of justification to eternal life is
God's supreme gift to all mankind in Christ (Jn. 3:16; 1 Jn. 5:11).
This constitutes the unconditional good news of the gospel. But like any gift, it has to
be received to be enjoyed (Rom. 5:17). Those who willfully, persistently,
and ultimately reject God's gift of salvation in Christ (the gospel), are
deliberately choosing the second death instead of eternal life (Deut. 30:19).
Therefore, in the judgment, they can only blame themselves when they face the second
death. Hence, unbelief (willfully rejecting the truth as it is in Christ) is the
unpardonable sin (Heb. 2:1-3; 10:26-29).
- Every baby is born subjectively in Adam (although objectively in Christ)
and, therefore, under the reign of sin, condemnation, and death (Rom. 3:9-20). To
continue to live under this reign is to end up with eternal death. Christ ushered in the
reign of grace, righteousness, and eternal life. To receive this gift of grace by
faith means we are now baptized subjectively into Christ and have passed from death
to life (1 Cor. 12:13; Gal. 5:27; Jn. 5:24). If we continue to live by faith under
this reign of grace, it will end up with eternal life.
- Adam and Christ represent two opposite camps, sin and righteousness or
death and life respectively. Therefore, you cannot choose to remain in Adam (to
enjoy sin) and at the same time accept by faith your position in Christ (to enjoy
eternal life). To obey the gospel is to receive Christ, the author of
righteousness and life. This involves saying good-bye to Adam, the author of sin and death
(Rom. 6:16-22). Your eternal destiny depends on which humanity you have chosen to
belong. I pray you will make the right choice.