Romans 5, Part 4
Oct 28, 2010
In Romans 5:15-21 Paul lays out the contrasting comparison between Adam and Christ. We will quote from The Concordant Version, which is more literal than the NASB,
(15) But not as the offense, thus also the grace. For if, by the offense of the one, the many died, much rather the grace of God and the gratuity in grace, which is of the One Man, Jesus Christ, to the many superabounds.
Adam and Jesus Christ are the two men who are being contrasted, along with their work and the effect that each work had upon "the many."
We must also understand that Paul is emphasizing the contrast between "one" and "the many," (that is, the group affected).
Adam and Jesus Christ are different men. Though some deny this, saying that Adam was Jesus Christ, I do not believe that Jesus Christ was ever a sinner, whether in His NT ministry or in His pre-existent state.
Adam, through sin, failed to fulfill either the Dominion Mandate of Gen. 1:26 or the Fruitfulness Mandate of Gen. 1:28. Through sin, he lost the Image of God, for he no longer reflected the nature and character of his Creator. Through sin, he also failed to beget the sons of God, but instead begat children in his own fallen image.
But where Adam failed, Jesus succeeded. Jesus Christ is the Image of God, and thus "He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high (Heb. 1:3). In other words, He fulfilled the Dominion Mandate of Gen. 1:26.
The other half of the Birthright is the Fruitfulness Mandate. Not only was Jesus Christ Himself the Son of God, but He also gave us the right to become the sons of God (John 1:12). Paul writes in Rom. 8:14,
(14) For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God.
And so we see the full contrast between Adam and Jesus Christ in terms of the original Birthright that is defined in Gen. 1:26-28. Where one failed because of sin, the other succeeded because He was without sin (Heb. 9:28).
Adam's sin brought death to all men. Paul says in Rom. 5:15 (quoted earlier), "by the offense of the one the many died." This is, of course, a restatement of what Paul had written in verse 12, where "death passed upon all men on which all sinned." It is plain that we are mortal, not because WE sinned, but because Adam sinned.
This is a basic law of authority, or headship, found throughout the Scriptures. The sins of the fathers do indeed affect the children (Ex. 34:7), as much as the troops themselves are affected by the decisions of the General. There is certainly some injustice in this, for many innocent people are killed every day on account of the decisions of those in authority. But in the case of Adam and Christ, Paul shows us that Christ came as the final Head of Humanity to correct the injustices incurred by Adam's sin.
(16) And not as through one act of sinning is the gratuity. For indeed, the judgment is out of one into condemnation, yet the grace is out of many offenses into a just award.
Paul was speaking logically according to his earlier schooling. This makes it somewhat difficult for us to grasp, unless we have taken a college course on Logic. When I took such a course at the University of Minnesota many years ago, it helped me to understand Paul's statement here, because I was able to put it into a logical formula: Unfortunately, I am unable to find a "not" symbol in my computer fonts, which looks like a squiggly horizontal line. But if you will bear with me, here is the best I can do for now:
NOT (a = b)
a = the act of sinning
b = the gratuity (gracious act)
So a & b are inversely alike. They are equals but in opposite ways. In other words, Adam's act of sinning compares inversely to Christ's gracious act. And, Paul tells us, the effects of each "one" affects "the many."
We know that the effect of Adam's sin was to bring death (mortality) upon all men. Thus, the effect of Christ's gracious act is to bring life (immortality) to all men. The same group of people are affected by each action, the first negatively and the second positively.
(17) For if, by the offense of the one, death reigns through the one, much rather, those obtaining the superabundance of grace and the gratuity of righteousness shall be reigning in life [immortality] through the One, Jesus Christ.
Paul then sums up his teaching by concluding:
(18) Consequently, then, as it was through one offense for all mankind for condemnation, thus also it is through one just award for all mankind for life's justifying. (19) For even as, through the disobedience of the one man, the many were constituted sinners, thus also, through the obedience of the One, the many shall be constituted just.
If we put this in more modern English, we see that "all mankind" were condemned to death (mortality) on account of Adam's sin, because all who were under his authority were affected by the decision of their head. In other words, Adam's sin was imputed to all men, calling what was not as though it were. Though none of us actually sinned when Adam sinned (we having not yet been born), we die nonetheless, as if we had sinned with Adam.
Conversely, the righteousness of Christ is also imputed to us, even though we were not crucified when He was crucified (we having not yet been born).
In both cases, by the law of authority, we were part of a body and so affected by the actions of our head. We were born part of the body and the estate of the first Adam. In our rebirth, we are part of the body and the estate of the Last Adam. In a sense, both of these cases are impersonal, in that both heads had an effect upon us without our consent and apart from our own personal will.
For this reason, as ambassadors for Christ, we are sent by our Head of State with a message to the opposing side: God has conciliated you, so we beg you to be conciliated to God in return, so that a reconciliation may take place. God has already conciliated all men, not imputing their trespasses to them (2 Cor. 5:19). This was done without the knowledge of those being affected by His gracious act. But there yet must be a response on our part in order for reconciliation to take place.
So the question arises: What happens to those who do not respond to God's conciliatory message? Will the benefits of His one-sided act be lost? In other words, will the injustice of Adam's sin being imputed to all men (apart from their consent) remain unresolved for ever?
Most Christians today seem to believe so. In their view, the effects of Christ's gracious act will not be applicable to "the many," but to the few who conciliate God during their life time. Yet such a view leaves unresolved the basic question of justice for all those who died in Adam. This is precisely why the Bible translators wrestled with Romans 5:12, not wanting to admit that Adam's sin had made us mortal. They recognized that this was inherently unjust, and so they tried to spare God's reputation as a good God.
The key is to know that Christ's gracious act on the cross has indeed given life (immortality) to all men--"but every man in his own squadron," or group (1 Cor. 15:23). Not everyone receives the free gift on the same occasion. It is not a question of FACT, but a question of TIMING. Some will avoid the "lake of fire" by being reconciled to God in this life time. Others will be "saved yet so as through fire" (1 Cor. 3:15).
In the end, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess Him as Lord (Phil. 2:10, 11). But this says nothing of the process by which this is accomplished.
This is the fourth part of a series titled "Romans 5." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones