READ: Romans 5:12-19
How is it that God to saved sinful humanity through Jesus? We understand that somehow the Son of God took our place on the cross, but how was such a substitution possible?
Today’s reading is the centerpiece of the letter to the Romans. Let’s read it again in Eugene Peterson’s excellent “The Message” translation of the Bible. But, before we do, let’s try to look for some key points. Notice the repetition of the word one. It appears eleven times. The critical point is the identification with Adam and with Christ. Also, watch for the word reign in our NIV, it’s more generally alluded to by Peterson, in terms like sovereignty. Paul described two men, Adam and Jesus, reigning over a kingdom. Note that through Jesus Christ we have gained vastly more than was ever lost in Adam.
Now Read from The Message Translation (MSG)
12 You know the story of how Adam landed us in the dilemma we’re in—first sin, then death, and no one exempt from either sin or death. 13 That sin disturbed relations with God in everything and everyone, but the extent of the disturbance was not clear until God spelled it out in detail to Moses. So death, this huge abyss separating us from God, dominated the landscape from Adam to Moses. 14 Even those who didn’t sin precisely as Adam did by disobeying a specific command of God still had to experience this termination of life, this separation from God. But Adam, who got us into this, also points ahead to the One who will get us out of it. 15 Yet the rescuing gift is not exactly parallel to the death-dealing sin. If one man’s sin put crowds of people at the dead-end abyss of separation from God, just think what God’s gift poured through one man, Jesus Christ, will do! 16 There’s no comparison between that death-dealing sin and this generous, life-giving gift. The verdict on that one sin was the death sentence; the verdict on the many sins that followed was this wonderful life sentence. 17 If death got the upper hand through one man’s wrongdoing, can you imagine the breathtaking recovery life makes, sovereign life, in those who grasp with both hands this wildly extravagant life-gift, this grand setting-everything-right, that the one man Jesus Christ provides? 18 Here it is in a nutshell: Just as one person did it wrong and got us in all this trouble with sin and death, another person did it right and got us out of it. But more than just getting us out of trouble, he got us into life! 19 One man said no to God and put many people in the wrong; one man said yes to God and put many in the right.
Adam reigned over the old creation but then he sinned and lost his kingdom. Because of Adam and Eve we and all of humanity is worthy of condemnation and death. Christ came to be the King of a new Creation (2 Cor. 5:17). Christ’s obedience on the cross ushered in righteousness and justification for us all. The Lord Jesus reversed the harm of Adam’s sin and accomplished “much more” by making the way for us the sons and daughters of God.
Is God Fair?
“Was it fair for God to condemn the whole world just because of one man’s disobedience?” Well, it was fair; and wise and gracious. Think about it for moment. Even if God had tested each human being separately, the outcome would have been the same: disobedience. Why can we be sure of that? Look at the world around you – examine your own life. It’s impossible to say whether God intended for Adam to fall, but God had a plan. In fact, the backup plan was magnificent and majestic. God graciously gave the highest of Creation the ability to choose the lowest depravity, so that one man’s choice would define the baseline for all. Condemning the humanity through Adam led to the salvation of humanity through Jesus Christ. We are descendants of Adam so Christ’s redemption of Adam saves us too. As Paul says in Romans 5:12-14, we know that all flesh dies because of disobeying the Law of God. Even though there was no Law from Adam to Moses, people still died. That’s because a general result results from a general cause. What is that cause? The disobedience of Adam. After Adam sinned, he eventually died and so did his descendants (Gen. 5).
Our human nature is the same as Adam’s. However, the fallen angels cannot be saved because they are not of a race like humanity. They sinned individually and were judged individually. There can be no representative to take their judgment for them and save them. But because you and I were lost in Adam, our tribal head (Heb. 7:9-10), we can be saved in Christ, the Head of the new creation. God’s plan was both gracious and wise. (Satan and those who joined him in rebellion against God 2 Peter 2:4; Isaiah 14:12-14; Rev. 12:3-4; Jude 1:6; Rev. 12:9) In Romans 5:14, Paul argued that men did not die “from Adam to Moses” for the same reason that Adam died—breaking a revealed law of God—for the Law had not yet been given. “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). Because sin was reigning in men’s lives (Rom. 5:21), death was also reigning (Rom. 5:14, 17).
Compare and Contrast
Adam’s offense is contrasted with Christ’s free gift (v. 15). Because of Adam’s trespass, many died; because of Christ’s obedience the grace of God abounds to many bringing life. The word “many” (literally “the many”) means the same as “all men” in Romans 5:12 and 18. Note the “much more”; for the grace of Christ brings not only physical life, but also spiritual life and abundant life. Christ did conquer death and one day will raise the bodies of all who have died “in Christ.” If He stopped there, He would only reverse the effects of Adam’s sin; but He went on to do “much more.” He gives eternal life abundantly to all who trust Him (John 10:10). (BE Series)
The effect of Adam’s sin is contrasted with the effect of Christ’s obedience (v. 16). Adam’s sin brought judgment and condemnation; but Christ’s work on the cross brings justification. When Adam sinned, he was declared unrighteous and condemned. When a sinner trusts Christ, he is justified—declared righteous in Christ.
Law and grace are contrasted next in verses 20-21. Grace was not an addition to God’s plan; grace was a part of God’s plan from the very beginning. God dealt with Adam and Eve in grace; God dealt with the patriarchs in grace; and God dealt with the nation of Israel in grace. God gave the Law through Moses, not to replace His grace, but to reveal the need for grace. The Law was temporary, but grace is eternal.
But as the Law made man’s sins increase, God’s grace abounded even more. God’s grace was more than adequate to deal with man’s sins. Even though sin and death still reign in this world, God’s grace is also reigning through the righteousness of Christ. Though we are now Christians our bodies are still subject to death. The old nature still tempts us to sin; but in Christ we can “reign in life anyway. We are part of the gracious kingdom of Christ.
In Romans 5:14, Adam is called “the figure of Him that was to come.” Adam was a type, or picture, of Jesus Christ. Adam came from the earth, but Jesus is the Lord from heaven (1 Cor. 15:47). Adam was tested in a Garden, surrounded by beauty and love; Jesus was tempted in a wilderness, and He died on a cruel cross surrounded by hatred and ugliness. Adam was a thief, and was cast out of Paradise; but Jesus Christ turned to a thief and said, “Today shalt thou be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). The Old Testament is “the book of the generations of Adam” (Gen. 5:1) and it ends with “a curse” (Mal. 4:6). The New Testament is “The book of the generation of Jesus Christ” (Matt. 1:1) and it ends with “no more curse” (Rev. 22:3).
You cannot help being “in Adam,” for this came by your first birth over which you had no control. But you can help staying “in Adam,” for you can experience a second birth—a new birth from above—that will put you “in Christ.” Perhaps that is why Jesus said, “Ye must be born again” (John 3:7).
Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series) – New Testament – The Bible Exposition Commentary – New Testament, Volume 1.