A Comparison between the two Adams By Jack Kettler
In this study, we will seek to understand the biblical teaching on the two Adams. As in previous studies, we will look at definitions, scriptures, commentary evidence for the glorifying of God in how we live. Most people are familiar with the first man Adam. Not everyone is familiar with the fact the Jesus is called the second or last Adam. In this study, we will look at differences and similarities between the two Adams of Scripture. We will start with a definition of the second or last Adam.
The Last Adam
A designation for Jesus found in the writings of the Apostle Paul. In bringing redemption, as the last (or second) Adam, Jesus represents those united to him, and thus becomes the inaugurator of the new humanity. In contrast, the first Adam represented all of humanity in the first sin and thus became the inaugurator of sinful humanity. *
The Last Adam
Question: What does it mean that Jesus is the second Adam?
Answer: The Apostle Paul tells us in his first letter to the church in Corinth, “The first man Adam became a living being; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven” (1Corinthians 15:45-49). **
Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come. But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification. For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they, which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.) Therefore, as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. Moreover, the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:
That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:12-21)
The next entry is a comprehensive exposition of Romans 5:12-21 and a contrast between the two Adams. Other than the scriptural commentary, we will forgo a discussion of “original sin” in this study.
Adam—Christ Correspondence and Contrast by William Hendriksen:
“But where sin increased, grace increased all the more” 5:12–21
12 Wherefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all mankind, since all sinned— 13 for before the law (was given) sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless, death reigned from (the time of) Adam to (that of) Moses, even over those who did not sin by transgressing an express command, as did Adam, who is a type of him who was to come.
15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if, by reason of the trespass of the one the many died, much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of this one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! 16 Again, the gift (of God) is not like (the result of) one man’s sin. For the judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the free gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. 17 For if by the trespass of the one, death reigned through that one, much more will those who receive the overflowing fullness of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.
18 Consequently, as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all men, so also one act of righteousness resulted for all men in justification issuing in life. 19 For just as through the disobedience of the one the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the One will the many be made righteous.
20 Moreover, the law came in besides, in order that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, 21 in order that, as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring everlasting life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
That there is a close connection between 5:1–11 and 5:12–21 is clear. In both of these sections the thought that is stressed is that salvation for time and eternity is through Jesus Christ. According to 5:1–11 it is through him that believers have been justified and have found peace, reconciliation with God. To this idea of certainty of salvation through Christ, Paul now, in verses 12–21, adds the thought that grace more than offsets sin. It not only nullifies the effects of sin, it also bestows everlasting life.
Paul’s reasoning may at first seem somewhat difficult to follow. He starts a sentence but does not complete it. He begins by saying, 12. Wherefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all mankind, since all sinned, and then, instead of completing this statement, he first of all enlarges on one of its elements, namely the universality of sin. Not until he reaches verse 18 does he return to the sentence he started to write. He reproduces its thought in a modified form: “Consequently, as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all,” and then he finally, in substance, completes the sentence as follows, “… so also one act of righteousness resulted for all men in justification issuing in life.”
Now it should be admitted that such a break in grammatical structure is in line with Paul’s style and personality. See on Luke, p. 6. Yet it is not today, nor has it been in the past, an unusual style phenomenon.
For example, a minister, making an announcement to his congregation, regarding a picnic, might start out as follows:
“Since tomorrow we’ll all be attending the church picnic.…”
He wishes to continue with, “We urge all to come early and to bring along food enough for your own family and, if possible, even something extra for poor people who may wish to join us.”
But before he can even say this he notices that his words about a church picnic tomorrow are being greeted with skepticism. So, instead, he continues as follows:
“I notice that some of you are shaking your heads, thinking that there can be no picnic tomorrow. Let me therefore assure you that the early morning prediction about a storm heading our way has been canceled. A new forecast was conveyed to me just minutes before I ascended the pulpit. According to it, the storm has changed its course and beautiful weather is expected for tomorrow. So we urge all to come early, etc.”
With all this in mind, the various elements of verse 12, and also the verse viewed as a unit, may be interpreted as follows:
a. “Wherefore,” that is, in view of the fact that, through his sacrificial death and resurrection life, Jesus Christ has brought righteousness, reconciliation (peace), and life, etc. See 5:1–11.
b. “just as through one man sin entered the world …”
The one man is obviously Adam. See verse 14. Cf. Gen. 2:16, 17; 3:1–6. In what sense is it to be understood that through Adam’s fall sin entered the world? Only in this sense that gradually, over the course of the years and centuries, those who were born inherited their sinful nature from Adam, and therefore committed sins? Without denying that this indeed happened, we must nevertheless affirm that there was a far more direct way in which “through one man sin entered the world.” On this same third missionary journey, not very long before Paul composed Romans, he wrote letters to the Corinthians. In one of them (1Cor. 15:22) he says, “As in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive.” In Rom. 5:15, he writes, “By reason of the trespass of the one the many died.” He obviously means that the entire human race was included in Adam, so that when Adam sinned, all sinned; when the process of death began to ruin him, it immediately affected the entire race.
Scripture, in other words, in speaking about these matters, does not view people atomistically, as if each person were comparable to a grain of sand on the seashore. Especially in this present day and age, with its emphasis on the individual, it is well to be reminded of the truth expressed in the words, which in a former generation, were impressed even upon the minds of children:
In Adam’s Fall
We Sinned All
Moreover, when we bear in mind that this very chapter (5) teaches not only the inclusion of all those who belong to Adam—that is, of the entire human race—in Adam’s guilt, but also the inclusion of all who belong to Christ, in the salvation purchased by his blood (verses 18, 19; cf. 2 Cor. 5:19; Eph. 1:3–7; Phil. 3:9; Col. 3:1, 3), and that this salvation is God’s free gift to all who by faith are willing to accept it, we shall have nothing to complain about.
c. “and death through sin, and so death spread to all mankind …”
Solidarity in guilt implies solidarity in death, here, as in 1Cor. 15:22, with emphasis on physical death. Sin and death cannot be separated, as is clear from Gen. 2:17; 3:17–19; Rom. 1:32; 1Cor. 15:22. In Adam all sinned; in Adam all died. The process of dying, and this not only for Adam but for the race, began the moment Adam sinned.
d. “since all sinned.”
In all probability this refers to sins all people have themselves committed after they were born. Such personal sinning has been going on throughout the centuries. Paul is, as it were, saying, “I know that one man, and in him all men, sinned, for if this were not true how can we account for all the sinning that has been going on afterward?”
This interpretation gives to the word sinned the meaning it has everywhere else in Paul’s epistles. Why should “all sinned” mean one thing (actual, personal sins) in Rom. 3:23, but something else in 5:12? Besides if here in 5:12 we explain the words all sinned to refer to the fact that all sinned in Adam, would we not be making the apostle guilty of needless repetition, for the sinning of all “in Adam” is already implied in this same verse; note “through one man sin entered the world.”
To these two reasons for believing that this interpretation of the words “since all sinned” is the right one, a third can be added: it now becomes clear why Paul did not, at this point, complete the sentence beginning with “Wherefore,” but went off on a tangent. The statement “since all sinned” could easily arouse disbelief, especially in the minds of those who attached great importance to the proclamation of the law at Sinai. The question might be asked, “If to sin means to transgress the law, how can Paul say that since the time of Adam all sinned? Until the giving of the law at Sinai there was no law, and therefore no transgression of the law, no sin.” The apostle considers this possible objection to be of sufficient importance to justify the break in grammatical structure to which reference was made in the beginning of the explanation of verse 12 (see p. 176). Paul answers as follows:
13, 14. … for before the law (was given) sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from (the time of) Adam to (that of) Moses, even over those who did not sin by transgressing an express command, as did Adam, who is a type of him who was to come.
In confirmation of the statement “all sinned,” including even those people who lived on earth during the period Adam to Moses, Paul reasons as follows:
Sin was indeed in the world even before Sinai’s law was given, as is shown by the fact that death, sin’s punishment, ruled supreme during the period Adam to Moses. The apostle may have been thinking, among other things, about the deluge, which destroyed almost the entire population of the world. Yes, death reigned even over those who did not sin by transgressing an expressed command, as did Adam. See Gen. 2:16, 17. So, it is clear that even during the period Adam to Moses sin was indeed taken into account. Though Sinai’s law, with its expressed commands, did not as yet exist, there was law. Here the apostle was undoubtedly thinking about what he had written earlier in this very epistle (2:14, 15). And this law, with death as punishment for wanton transgressors, was indeed applied (see Rom. 1:18–32). That there was law follows from the fact that there was sin. If there had been no law there would have been no sin.
In introducing Adam, the transgressor of an expressed command, the apostle states, “who is a type of him who was to come.”
Having said this, is Paul able now at last, to finish the sentence he began in verse 12? Not yet, for calling Adam a type of the One who was to come, that is, of Christ, could easily lead to misunderstanding. Adam, whose fall resulted in incalculable misery for the human race, and Christ, the world’s Savior (John 4:42; 1 John 4:14; cf. 1 Tim. 4:10), how is it possible to mention these two in one breath? How can Adam be a type of Christ? This Paul must first explain.
How can there be any resemblance between Adam and Christ? Nevertheless, there is resemblance, for just as it is true that Adam imparted to those who were his that which belonged to him, so also Christ bestows on his beloved ones that which is his. It is in this respect that Adam foreshadows Christ. For the rest, however, the parallel is one of contrast, a fact which the apostle sets forth as follows:
15–17. But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if, by reason of the trespass of the one the many died, much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of this one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! Again, the gift (of God) is not like (the result of) one man’s sin. For the judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the free gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. For if by the trespass of the one, death reigned through that one, much more will those who receive the overflowing fullness of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.
In these verses Paul shows that the parallel Adam-Christ is mainly one of contrast, in the sense that Christ’s influence for good far outweighs Adam’s effectiveness for evil: the free gift is “not like the trespass,” that is, is far more effective than the trespass.
By way of introduction to the further interpretation a few matters should be kept in mind:
a. The apostle uses the word many in a twofold sense. In its first use (“the many died”), it indicates all of Adam’s physical descendants. At the close of that same verse (“overflow to the many”), it indicates all those who belong to Christ. This reminds one of Isa. 53:11, 12; Matt. 20:28; Mark 10:45.
b. Verse 12 has shown that Adam was responsible for bringing into the world two evils: sin and death. The apostle deals with both of these in turn: with Adam’s sin or trespass (verses 15, 16), with death (verse 17). He conceives of them as being intimately related, and therefore at times mentions both in one breath.
It is understandable that Paul can say that by reason of Adam’s trespass the many died. These many are those designated in 5:12 as “all mankind” (literally all human beings, everybody). Cf. 1Cor. 15:22. But, in connection with the work of God in Christ, for God’s children this evil has been more than canceled out. For them God’s grace and his gift of salvation changed death into its very opposite. Death became a gain (Phil. 1:21)! Moreover, as to sin, when grace entered, it more than merely returned man to his former state of innocence. It bestowed on him righteousness (verse 17), and life (verse 18), that is, everlasting life (verse 21). For the glorious content of this term see above, on 2:7.
Again, in Adam’s case a single sin was involved, a sin that resulted in condemnation. But Christ, by his work of redemption, made provision for the forgiveness not only of that one sin but also of all those that followed from it. His sacrifice sufficed for them all, and in fact was efficacious for all the sins committed by those who, by sovereign grace, were to place their trust in him. For them condemnation was replaced by justification. See on 1:17; 3:24; 5:1.
Paul now turns more especially to the subject of death. This time, after repeating that death resulted from the trespass of the one, Adam, he mentions the reign of death, the powerful and destructive sway it exercises over the affairs of human beings. In harmony with his thoughts on the supremacy of grace (the “much more” doctrine), the apostle now points out that in the case of believers the reign of death is not merely replaced by the reign of life but by a reign so inexpressibly glorious that those who participate in it will themselves be kings and queens. All this is the result of “the overflowing fullness of grace and of a righteousness that is God’s gift to them through the One, Jesus Christ,” that is, through his person and work.
When the apostle has thus taken care of the difficulties that had to be cleared up before he was able to complete the thought begun in verse 12, he now, by means of somewhat varying phraseology, in verse 18a gives the gist of the earlier verse—so that essentially verse 18a amounts to verse 12, and then, in verse 18b brings this thought to a conclusion. In somewhat different wording the entire thought is repeated in verse 19.
18, 19. Consequently, as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all men, so also one act of righteousness resulted for all men in justification issuing in life. For just as through the disobedience of the one the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the One will the many be made righteous.
As the word “consequently” indicates, not only is Paul now returning to the thought expressed in verse 12; he is summing up the argument of the entire paragraph (verses 12–17). The present passage places over against each other one trespass, namely, that of Adam (Gen. 3:6, 9–12, 17), a trespass here called “the disobedience of the one,” and one act or deed of righteousness, called “the obedience of the One,” that One being Jesus Christ. Cf. Phil. 2:8. Since in the preceding context Paul has no less than three times mentioned Christ’s death for his people (verses 6, 8, 10; cf. verses 7 and 9), it is certain that also here in verses 18, 19 the reference is to that supreme sacrifice. However, we should not interpret this concept too narrowly: Christ’s voluntary death represents his entire sacrificial earthly ministry of which that death was the climax.
We can understand that one trespass resulted for all men in condemnation, but what does the apostle mean when he states that also for all men one act of righteousness resulted in life-imparting justification? If in the first case “all men” means absolutely everybody, does not logic demand that in the second instance of its use it has the same meaning? The answer is:
a. The apostle has made very clear in previous passages that salvation is for believers, for them alone (1:16, 17; 3:21–25, etc.).
b. He has emphasized this also in this very context: those alone who “receive the overflowing fullness of grace and of the gift of righteousness” will reign in life (verse 17).
c. In a passage which is similar to 5:18, and to which reference has been made earlier, the apostle himself explains what he means by “all” or “all men” who are going to be saved and participate in a glorious resurrection. That passage is:
“For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ, the first fruits; afterward those who are Christ’s, at his coming” (1Cor. 15:22, 23). Here it is clearly stated that the “all” who will be made alive are “those who are Christ’s,” that is, those who belong to him.
But though this answer proves that when Paul here uses the expression “all” or “all men” in connection with those who are or will be saved, this “all” or “all men” must not be interpreted in the absolute or unlimited sense, this still leaves another question unanswered, namely, “Why does Paul use this strong expression?” To answer this question one should carefully read the entire epistle. It will then become clear that, among other things, Paul is combating the ever-present tendency of Jews to regard themselves as being better than Gentiles. Over against that erroneous and sinful attitude he emphasizes that, as far as salvation is concerned, there is no difference between Jew and Gentile. The reader should carefully study the following passages in order to see this for himself: 1:16, 17; 2:7–11; 3:21–24, 28–30; 4:3–16; 9:8, 22–33; 10:11–13; 11:32; 15:7–12; 16:25–27. As concerns salvation, says Paul, “There is no distinction. God shows no partiality.” All men are sinners before God. All are in need of salvation. For all the way to be saved is the same.
In a day and age in which, even in certain evangelical circles, the unbiblical distinction between Jew and Gentile is still being maintained and even emphasized, it is necessary that what God’s Word says about this, particularly also in Paul’s epistle to the Romans, be pointed out.
Note that in verse 18 we are told that the one trespass resulted in condemnation for all, but that the one act of righteousness resulted in justification issuing in life. This shows that justification not merely overturns the verdict of “guilty,” setting aside the sentence of doom, but also opens the gate to life. For this concept of life—cf. verses 17 and 21—see above on 2:7.
Also in verse 19 Paul does not say, “Just as through the disobedience of the one the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the One will the many be made innocent or sinless,” but “… will the many be made righteous.” To be sure, this basically means “to be declared righteous.” However, when God declares someone righteous, does that action ever stand all by itself? See the explanation of 5:5.
20. Moreover, the law came in besides. In order that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more …
Paul has been speaking about Adam and Christ, type and antitype. Adam transgressed a specific command, as has been shown. That happened long before the pomulgation of Sinai’s law. Now even before this there was law, as the explanation of 5:13 has shown. But at Sinai the Mosaic law came in besides “in order that the trespass might increase.” That was the divine intention in giving this law.
This cannot mean that God became the cause of sin’s increase. It means that it was God’s will and purpose that in light of his demand of perfect love (cf. Matt. 22:37–40; Mark 12:29–31; Luke 10:27) man’s consciousness of sin might become sharpened. A vague awareness of the fact that all is not well with him will not drive man to the Savior. So the law acts as a magnifying glass. Such an instrument does not actually increase the number of dirty spots on a garment. It makes them stand out more clearly and reveals many more of them than one can see with the naked eye. Similarly, the law causes sin to stand out in all its heinousness and ramifications. In connection with this see also Rom. 3:20; 7:7, 13; Gal. 3:19.
Moreover, this increase in the knowledge of sin is very necessary. It will prevent a person from imagining that in his own power he can overcome sin. The more he, in light of God’s law, begins to see his own sinfulness and weakness, the more also will he thank God for the manifestation of his grace in Jesus Christ. Result: where sin increases, grace increases also. Not as if these two forces, sin and grace, were equal. On the contrary, grace not only pardons; as verse 21 shows, it does far more: it brings “everlasting life through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Truly, where sin increases, grace increases all the more!
Among the many hymns that bring out this glorious truth there are these two: (a) Charles Wesley’s “O For a Thousand Tongues,” containing the line, “He breaks the power of canceled sin”; what an incisive combination of two mighty products of God’s grace, namely, justification and sanctification; and (b) Julia H. Johnston’s “Grace Greater Than Our Sin.”
Since the apostle often makes mention of God’s law, as also in the present passage, it may be useful to give a brief summary of the functions of this law, as indicated in Paul’s epistles and elsewhere in Scripture. Undoubtedly one or more references can easily be added to each of the following:
a. to serve as a source of man’s knowledge of sin and to sharpen his consciousness of sin (Rom. 3:20, etc., as has been indicated).
b. to fix the sinner’s attention on the far greater power of God’s grace in Jesus Christ, and to lead him to the Savior (Rom. 5:20; Gal. 3:24).
c. to serve as a guide for the expression of the believer’s life of gratitude to God’s honor (Ps. 19:7, 8; 119:105; Rom. 7:22).
d. to function as a bridle, restraining sin (1 Tim. 1:9–11).
There is, of course, a very close connection between these various functions.
The purpose of “grace abounding” is expressed in the following unforgettable words: 21. … in order that, as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring everlasting life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
What a strikingly beautiful close to this chapter! There are seven concepts, as follows:
This is, first of all, the sin of Adam, here viewed as our representative, whose guilt, due to the solidarity of the human race, is imputed to us all, a fact to which all the personal sins of human beings bear witness. See especially verses 12, 15, 17.
When Adam fell, it seemed as if sin was about to triumph completely. However, according to God’s plan, grace intervened, and in the case of all God’s children, triumphed over sin. See verses 12–14 for the reign of sin; verses 15–19 for the triumph of grace.
Sin brought condemnation and death; first of all physical death, but also spiritual and eternal death. Sin and Death are personified: Sin being, as it were, the Sovereign; Death, his Viceroy. For the moment (think of Adam’s fall), it seemed as if Sin would be able to claim the victory. See verses 12, 14. But note the next item:
Grace meets sin head-on and defeats it. See verses 15–17, 20.
Not a righteousness provided by man but a righteousness imputed by God. It was through this righteousness that grace triumphed over sin. See 1:17; 3:21–24; 5:17.
f. everlasting life
When the sinner is clothed with the righteousness provided by God, he is on his way to everlasting life (verse 18), the glorious life in the new heaven and earth; a life, which, in principle, is given to him even here and now. For this concept see on 2:7.
g. Jesus Christ our Lord
See verses 14, 15, 17, 19. It must not be forgotten that apart from the immeasurably marvelous sacrifice of “Jesus Christ our Lord,” a sacrifice revealing a love, which, in all its dimensions, surpasses all human understanding, grace would never have been able to conquer sin and death.
The unifying thought, as it were tying together all these seven concepts, is this, “Where sin increased, grace increased all the more,” namely, the grace embodied in the supreme sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ, and revealed to us through him. (1)
Additional Scriptures relevant to the two Adams:
For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. (1Corinthians 15:21-22)
Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible on 1Corinthians 15:21-22 is excellent:
“For since by man came death,…. The first man, by sin, was the cause of death; of its coming into the world, and upon all men, by which corporeal death is here meant; though the first man also by sin brought a moral death, or a death in sin on all his posterity; and rendered them liable to an eternal death, which is the just wages of sin; but since the apostle is treating of the resurrection of the body, a bodily death seems only intended:
By man came also the resurrection of the dead; so God, in his great goodness and infinite wisdom has thought fit, and he has so ordered it, that it should be, that as the first man was the cause of, and brought death into the world, the second man should be the cause of the resurrection of life. Christ is the meritorious and procuring cause of the resurrection of his people; he by dying has abolished death; and by rising from the dead has opened the graves of the saints, and procured their resurrection for them, obtained for them a right unto it, and made way for it: and he is the pattern and exemplar, according to which they will be raised; their vile bodies will be fashioned, and made like to his glorious body; and whereas both in life and in death they bear the image of the first and earthly man, in the resurrection they will bear the image of the second and heavenly one: he also will be the efficient cause of the resurrection; all the dead will be raised by his power, and at the hearing of his voice; though the saints only will be raised by him, in virtue of their union to him, and interest in him, being members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.
For as in Adam all die,…. The apostle here shows who he meant in the former verse, by the one man the cause of death, and by the other the author of the resurrection of the dead, and that he intended Adam and Christ; all men were in Adam seminally, as the common parent of human nature, in such sense as Levi was in the loins of Abraham when Melchizedek met him, and in him paid tithes unto him; and they were all in him representatively, he being the federal head of all his posterity, and so a type and figure of Christ that was to come; and being in him, they all sinned in him, and so died in him, the sentence of death passed on them in him; they became subject to a corporeal death, which has ever since reigned over mankind, even over infants, such who have not sinned after the similitude of his transgression; this was the doctrine of the Jewish church; See Gill on Romans 5:12, to which may be added one testimony more; says (g) one of their writers,
“By the means of the first Adam, “death was inflicted by way of punishment on all’”:
even so in Christ shall all be made alive: not made spiritually alive, for Christ quickens whom he will; not all in this sense, some die in their sins; nor are all entitled to an eternal life; for though Christ has a power to give it, yet only to those whom the Father has given to him; it is true indeed, that all that are in Christ, chosen in him and united to him, are made alive by him, and have the gift of eternal life through him; but the apostle is not speaking of such a life, but of a corporeal one: to be quickened or made alive, is with the Jews, and other eastern nations, a phrase of the same signification with being raised from the dead, and as the context here shows; and not to be understood of the resurrection of all men, for though there will be a resurrection of the just and unjust, yet the one will be the resurrection of life, and the other the resurrection of damnation; now it is of the former the apostle here speaks, and expresses by being made alive: and the sense is, that as all that were in Adam, all that belonged to him, all his natural seed and posterity, all to whom he was a federal head, died in him, became mortal, and subject to death through him; so all that are in Christ, that belong to him, who are his spiritual seed and offspring, to whom he is a covenant head, and representative, shall be raised to an immortal life by him; or as all the elect of God died in Adam, so shall they all be quickened, or raised to life in and by Christ.” (2)
The next passage also deals with the comparisons of the two Adams:
And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. (1Corinthians 15:45-49)
The First and the Last Adam by S. Cox, D.D. on 1Corinthians 15:45-50 explains this passage perfectly:
And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.…
1. St. Paul bases his assertion that “if there is a psychical body, there is also a spiritual,” first, on the analogies of Nature; second, on the nature of Man as revealed in Holy Writ (see ver. 44), third, on the historical facts that Adam had the one and Christ the other.
2. Note, however, some interesting preliminaries. The opening clause of the text is almost an exact quotation from Genesis 2:7; that the second refers to Christ is proved by these two facts: that with the rabbis, at whose feet Paul sat, “the last Adam” was a common name for “the Messiah”; and that St. Paul never uses the designations the second Man, or “the last Adam,” of any one but Christ. Again the rabbis bid us note that Moses says, not “man was made, but became a living soul.” They hold that when God breathed the breath of life into Adam, He conferred on him the higher spiritual nature of man; but that, when Adam sinned, he fell, and became a man in whom the soul ruled rather than the spirit. And the rabbis have the Scriptures on their side. What was “the fall” but a fall from the higher life of the spirit into the lower life of the soul, into a life of mere intelligence and passion as distinguished from a life of righteousness, faith, love, joy, peace? Why was he debarred from “the tree of life” but because that it was no longer meet that his body should put on incorruption and immortality?
I. THE FIRST MAN ADAM BECAME A LIVING SOUL.
1. The psychical or soulish man is a man in whom the soul is supreme. Conscience, righteousness, faith, God, etc., do not stand first with him; but man, time, earth, the gratifications of sense and intellect. Was not Adam a man of this type? When the spiritual crisis came his faith failed him. God was not first with him, nor God’s will.
2. A soulish man he came to have a soulish body. Indications of this are seen in —
(1) Adam’s newborn shame of his nakedness.
(2) The passion, which made Cain a murderer.
(3) The infirmities, the special forms of death and corruption, to which Adam and his children became liable. Nevertheless, as our own experience proves, the body, even when thus changed and depraved, was nevertheless perfect in its adaptation to the faculties, functions, cravings, needs of the soul.
II. CHRIST, THE LAST ADAM, WAS A LIFE-GIVING SPIRIT.
1. He was the true spiritual Man; for in Him all faculties and passions of the soul were in subjection to the spirit. To Him, living and walking in the spirit, all that is of earth and time and soul was as nothing when compared with the eternal realities. And therefore He could refuse all the kingdoms of this world, and could hasten to help any man, however lowly, however earthly, and seek to quicken in him, by help to the body, the life of the spirit. Of a charity so intense that He loved every man, of a faith so clear and strong that He looked through all the shows of time to the eternal substance, of a hope so lively that He despaired of no man, of a righteousness so pure that even the practiced eyes of incarnate evil could find nothing in Him, of a peace so perfect that even His unparalleled labour and conflict could not impair it; in heaven even while He was on earth; making His Father’s will His daily food, He stands before us the one true spiritual Man.
2. So also, the last Adam teaches us what the spiritual body is.
(1) He had a body like to ours, yet not altogether the same as ours. Conceived of a Virgin by the Holy Ghost, Christ took our flesh as Adam took it, from the hands of God, immaculate; receiving a physical body which might change and rise into “a spiritual body” without passing, as our bodies must, through the purifications of corruption. We die perforce. But He “laid down” His life. He saw no corruption. It was not possible that He should be holden of death.
(a) And therefore, we see signs of the spiritual body even in the body of His humiliation. Virtue went out of Him. He lived not by bread alone. He walked on the storm-tossed waves. On Mount Tabor He stood before the eyes of His amazed and dazzled disciples a spiritual man in a spiritual body.
(b) But all these signs of the spiritual m the physical region of His life were prompted by that which is of the spirit, not by that which is of the soul. It was at the touch of faith, of spiritual need and desire and trust that virtue went out of Him. It was that He might feed the hungry, succour the distressed, or deliver the imperilled, that He exerted a supernatural control over natural laws: and He fed, succoured, delivered men that they might come to know Him, and God in Him, and thus possess themselves of eternal life. When the weak physical frame was transfigured with an immortal strength and splendour, it was because His spirit was rapt in the ecstasies of redeeming love as He talked with Moses and Elias, because He saw that the work of His redemption would be triumphantly accomplished.
(2) After His death and resurrection, the signs that He inhabits a spiritual body grow more apparent. Though He can still eat and drink, etc., He glides through closed doors, passes as in an instant from place to place, vanishes from their sight as the disciples recognise Him. At His will, He is visible or invisible: He is here. He is there, the spiritual body being now as perfect a servant of the spirit in Him as the psychical body of the soul. He can eat, but He does not need to eat. His body is raised into higher conditions, endowed with loftier powers. It is heavenly, not earthly; it is spiritual rather than physical or psychical. Conclusion: Do any ask: “But what is all this to us? Adam and Christ were both exceptional men. If the first Adam was a psychical man and the last Adam a spiritual man, how does that bear on St. Paul’s argument?” It is much — nay, it is everything — to us; and that precisely because both Adam and Christ were exceptional men, who stand in an exceptional relation to the human race. For (ver. 22) both the Adam and the Christ are in us, and in all men; that they contend together in us for the mastery; that it is at our own option to side either with the one or with the other; and that, according as we espouse the first Adam or the last, we become earthly or heavenly, psychical or spiritual men. If we permit the Christ to reign in us, in our mortal members, our mortality will put on immortality — as His did, and be swallowed up of life — as His was. Like His, our spiritual manhood will demand and receive a spiritual body. And therefore St. Paul may fairly exhort us that, “as we bear the image of the earthly (man), so also we should bear the image of the heavenly.” (S. Cox, D.D.) (3)
The following entry from the Evangelical Dictionary is excellent.
Adam, the Second from Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary:
Christ is the “image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation” (Col 1:15). Like the first Adam, he is the “ruler of creation” (Rev 3:14). He is its author and perfecter (Heb. 12:2). Anyone in Christ is a “new creation” (2Cor. 5:17).
He existed in the form of God, yet did not consider equality with God something to be grasped (Phil. 2:6). He did not desire to be more than man (2:7-8). He was “made like his brothers in every way” so that “by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death” and free those held in slavery by fear of death (Hebrews 2:14 Hebrews 2:17).
Christ was crowned with glory and honor over the world to come (Heb. 2:5-7). The first Adam lost his crown and gained death. The second Adam was crowned because he tasted death for every man (2:8-9). Sin and death upon all men entered the world through one man. By the obedience of the second Adam life abounds too many (Ro 5:12-19).
He was tempted in every way, as was Adam, yet was without sin (Matt 4:1-11; Heb. 4:15). Like the serpent he says, “Take and eat” (Matt 26:26), but this food brings life to the world (John 6:33). Christ and Adam are both sons of God (Matt 1:1; Luke 3:37). Both have their sonship by his power (Gen 2:7; Luke 1:35; Rom 1:4). God breathed into Adam the breath of life. Jesus breathed on his disciples and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22).
As in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive (1Co 15:22). Adam was a pattern of the one to come (Ro 5:14). One of the greatest things to be said for the first Adam was that he became “a living being.” Christ, however, became “a life-giving spirit” (1Co 15:45). This spiritual life force does not make us slaves again to fear but the spirit of the Son comes into our hearts crying “Abba, Father” (Rom 8:15; Gal 4:6-7).
The first Adam came from the dust. The second Adam came from heaven (1Co 15:47). He came down from heaven not to do his own will but the will of him who sent him (John 6:38). God called the first man by name out of hiding (Gen 3:9). The second Adam calls his own by name and they hear his voice (John 10:3). One day the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God. Those who hear will live (John 5:25).
We have borne the likeness of the earthly man, the first Adam. In the resurrection we will bear the likeness of the man from heaven (1Co 15:49). By the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, he will transform our lowly bodies so they will be like his glorious body. The last enemy placed under the feet of the second Adam is death (Psalm 110:1; 1Co 15:26). He will not reach out and try to grasp more but will turn everything over to God who will be all in all (15:28). Paul Ferguson (4)
In closing, a comparative summary of the two Adams:
THE FIRST ADAM
· The first man Adam was made a living soul (1Corinthians 15:45)
· He was natural or non-spiritual (1Corinthians 15:46)
· His origin was earthly (1Corinthians 15:47)
· Fallen men reflect Adam’s image (1Corinthians 15:49)
· All die in Adam (1Corinthians 15:22)
Adam is the federal head of the old creation and fallen race:
· Adam was a representative of all mankind (Romans 5:12-21)
· Adam performed one act for his race this act was a sinful act (Romans 5:12, 15, 16, 17-18)
Adam’s sinful act produced:
· Death (Romans 5:12, 14, 15)
· Judgment (Romans 5:16, 18)
· Condemnation (Romans 5:16, 18)
JESUS, THE SECOND ADAM
· The last Adam (1Corinthians 15:45)
· The second Adam was made a quickening spirit (1Corinthians 15:45)
· Christ gives life and this life is spiritual (1Corinthians 15:46)
· Christ’s origin is from heaven (1Corinthians 15:47)
· Christ’s people bear His image (1Corinthians15:49
· Christ’s people are alive in Him (1Corinthians15:22)
Jesus is the federal Head of the new creation and redeemed race:
· Christ was a representative for His people and He acted on behalf of His people (Romans 5:12-21)
· Christ performed one act, which had even greater value than the first Adam (Romans 5:16)
· Christ‘s act was a righteous act (Romans 5:18)
· Christ’s act was an act of obedience, in dying on the cross (Romans 5:19)
Christ’s righteous act produced:
· Eternal Life (Romans 5:17, 18, 21)
· Justification (Romans 5:16, 18-19)
· No Condemnation (Romans 8:8)
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)
1. William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary, Romans, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House, 1984), pp. 176-185.
2. John Gill, Exposition of the Old and New Testaments, 1Corinthians, 9 Volumes, (Grace Works, Multi-Media Labs), 2011, p. 365-366.
3. Samuel Cox, The Biblical Illustrator, Electronic Database, Bible Soft .com, Bible Hub.
4. Walter A. Elwell, Editor, Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House), p. 10-12.
“To God, only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:27) and “heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28, 29)
Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at: www.TheReligionThatStartedInAHat.com
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