Sermon on Romans 5:12-21 – “Christ Over Adam”
September 23, 2018 at Dillingham Presbyterian Church
I. The Comparison (Verses 12, 18, 19)
We start the passage with a “therefore.” And I was taught that whenever you see a “therefore” in the Scriptures, you must ask “What is the therefore there for?”
Now, Paul says “therefore” because he is continuing from his previous theme and his previous points. The meaning is to say “in view of the fact” that Christ’s death on the cross has brought righteousness, reconciliation, and life—in view of all of this that has just been said— THEREFORE the following comparison may properly be made: just as Adam’s one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so Christ’s one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. Since we have said that Christ has done just this, THEREFORE the comparison may be made.
But Paul’s comparison is not fully complete until all the way to verse 18.
Paul starts the passage in verse 12 saying,
12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned–
And he stops there. He pauses. And he doesn’t complete his thoughts until verse 18. And before he gets there—for the next 5 verses—he notes some relevant points. And only then does he return to his main line of thought.
We all do this in our speech. We all pause to explain a term, or a give a brief history of a relevant happening before moving on with our main point. Paul certainly should not be faulted for doing the same.
This might be called a digression or an excursus or even likened to a detour used before returning to one’s main path.
EXAMPLE: An example of a digression is perhaps you’ve ask me what books I own on birds, and I respond, “I own Peterson’s Field Guide to Birds, … and I own Birds of the American Southwest, and I own Olsen’s Standard Book of British Birds.” But while telling you this I pause for full minute to explain to you some important detail about the first of these books before continuing on to list the others. That is a digression. And it is perfectly acceptable in normal speech.
Now Paul makes a digression just as he is getting into his comparison in verse 12. He begins by saying “just as.” Now comparisons usually have two parts. When someone says “just as” ABC, you expect them to finish by saying “so” XYZ. (REPEAT: Just as ABC, so XYZ.)
But Paul does not immediately tell us the XYZ. Only after a digression of some verses does Paul in verse 18 return to the comparison and complete it. There in verse 18 he writes,
18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.
The comparison is that Adam’s ONE SIN brought condemnation to all of humanity, and Jesus’s ONE ACT OF RIGHTEOUSNESS justified a new humanity. (REPEAT: Adam’s ONE SIN brought condemnation to all of humanity, and Jesus’s ONE ACT OF RIGHTEOUSNESS justified a new humanity.)
A. Adam was a Real Person
There is something particularly important to notice in this comparison which Paul is making. Throughout these verses Adam is understood to have been an actual living breathing historical person. (REPEAT: Adam is understood to have been an actual living breathing historical person.)
Paul says “sin came into the world through one man.” He doesn’t say that this is a story, or a legend of any sort. It is what actually happened. Sin came into the world through one man, Adam. And Adam is just as historical as is Jesus Christ who had ministered in Paul’s own lifetime. Jesus’s one act — “the act of righteousness” — was an historical event. So too was Adam’s one trespass an historical event.
Some want to make Adam to be a myth. But Paul considers Adam to have been a real person. And he is not alone in this sentiment.
Adam is also understood to be an historical person by Luke in the genealogy he provides, and by Jude who speaks of Enoch as the seventh from Adam.
And Jesus too considered the account in Genesis to be factual when he said in Matthew 19:4-5,
“Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female and said ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife and the two shall become one flesh?”
So the reality of Adam is clear from the Scriptures.
And it was this REAL Adam whose REAL trespass led to the REAL condemnation of all men, and brought sin into the world, and through sin, brought death into the world.
This is the doctrine of Original Sin.
B. The Doctrine of Original Sin
The doctrine of Original Sin is entirely unpopular with many, even some who take the label “Christian.”
Perhaps they believe that Original Sin is unfair; which essentially just means they don’t like it. But whether one likes it or not, the Scriptures teach it.
Here we see the doctrine of Original Sin. It is BOTH Adam’s first sin of disobeying God in the eating the forbidden fruit AND it is the consequences of that sin.
Three times in the passage we have comment about Adam’s first sin:
Sin came into the world through one man.
Through the one trespass.
By the one man’s disobedience.
And a number of times in the passage we are told of the consequence of that sin:
This led to condemnation for all men
And death spread to all men
One trespass brought condemnation
And death reigned
The consequences of Adam’s sin are a corrupt sinful nature for all humanity, and ultimately, leading from that, the final consequence is death.
This corrupt nature of our first parents then is inherited by all who come into the world.
That is how David can say in Psalm 51:5
“Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.”
And how Paul can say in Ephesians 2:3
“we were by nature children of wrath like the rest of mankind.”
All men, by Adam’s one sin, are made sinners and so death spread to all men.
C. The One Act of Righteousness
The comparison is then made between the one sin of Adam and the “one act of righteousness” of Jesus Christ.
Naturally, clearly, the “one act of righteousness” is Jesus’s death on the cross. But it is also important that in Jesus’s death on the cross He (Jesus) had lived a perfect life of obedience to the Law of God. So it is by all of Christ’s obedience that the many will be made righteous, even though the one act is of paramount importance.
The element of comparison then is on the fact that is both “ONE MAN” who brought sin into the world (Adam) and “ONE MAN” by whom comes righteousness (the Lord Jesus Christ). One man.
Though Adam sinned and Christ sacrificed, both were acts of ONE MAN. It is on this point that Paul bases his comparison
II. Similarities Between Adam and Christ
A. Adam is a Type of Christ in Their Each Having “One Act”
Because of the similarity in Adam and Jesus each performing one crucial act, Paul rightly says that Adam was “a type of the one who was to come.”
Adam was the “type.”
And Jesus Christ then—the one who was to come—is the “antitype.”
In the Scriptures a type–antitype relationship is that of prefigurement and fulfillment. The types of the Old Testament are shadows of the real things which are revealed in the New Testament.
There are many examples of type-antitype relationships in the Scriptures. But to note a couple of them, there is
(1) The serpent being lifted up by Moses in the wilderness which was a shadow of Christ who was lifted up on the cross.
(2) Jonah spending three days in the belly of the whale just as Christ would later spend three days in the heart of the earth.
Like these, so too was Adam a shadow of the reality to come in Christ.
Adam was a type of Christ because the great (and dreadful) importance of his ONE trespass is a shadow of the great (and joyful) importance of the ONE act of righteousness of Jesus Christ.
Adam and Christ are mentioned together elsewhere in the Scriptures as well. 1 Corinthians 15:45, 47 reads,
“Thus it is written, ‘the first man Adam became a living being’, the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.”. . . “The first man was from the earth, a man of dust, the second man is from heaven.”
The similarity here is that while Adam was the FIRST of humanity, Christ was the FIRST of a new humanity; those born of the spirit.
So Adam is rightly called a type of Christ, and Christ is rightly called the last Adam.
B. Adam and Christ are Each Federal Representatives
Now the very great importance of this to you and me is that in sin Adam was the federal head of mankind, and in righteousness Jesus Christ is federal head of His people.
But what is a “federal head”? What does that mean?
A federal head is a representative. It is a single person representing a larger group.
Each of the two covenants have their own federal head. Adam was our federal head or representative of mankind in the Covenant of Works. And Jesus was our Federal head or representative in the Covenant of Grace. When Adam, as man’s federal head, sinned, all men sinned in him. All were seen as guilty because of Adam’s one sin. And when Christ, as the federal head of His church, obeyed the Law even unto death, His righteousness was credited to all who shall believe in Him.
We will not be judged on our actions, but we will be judged on the actions of our federal head. We will be judged as sinners in Adam unless we are joined to Christ and seen as righteous in Him. This idea of representation is not alien to the rest of the Scriptures.
Consider the story of David and Goliath. After the armies of Israel and the Philistines gathered for battle, Goliath of Gath came out from the camp and shouted to the ranks of Israel:
“Choose A MAN for yourselves, and let him come down to me. If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants. But if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us.”
Goliath was the representative for the Philistines.
And David was the representative for Israel.
And when the victory was won, it was not merely David’s victory. The victory belonged to Israel.
And, of course, in our own day there are many examples of representatives, of federal heads. In our country we have the House of Representatives and each member votes for and represents their constituency. And when the President of the United States talks to leaders of other nations, he too is our representative.
Now the importance is this:
That by Adam’s one sin, we all sinned, because he was our representative. The original sin of Adam made all mankind guilty before God.
And by Christ’s one obedient act of righteousness, all His people were declared righteous by God, because Christ was our representative.
And what a much better representative to have!
This is not a matter of a having a Republican in office rather than a Democrat, or having low taxes rather than high, this is a matter of having LIFE rather than death!
C. Proof of Federal Representation (Verses 13, 14)
Paul proves the truth of federal representation in an enlightening—though challenging—couple verses.
[13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam
What does this mean: “sin is not counted where there is no law.”
Between Adam and Moses—in that time before the law was given—men certainly did sin. But their sin was not like the transgression of Adam, to whom God had given expressed commands.
That might be a surprising statement. “Sin is not counted where this is no law.”
But it comes into understanding when we answer the question: “Why did the people between Adam and Moses all die?”
They died as a result of Adam’s sin in which they participated by virtue of Adam being their representative. God counted against them the sin of their representative Adam.
Thus their death—while there was not yet law in the later fuller sense—proves the federal headship of Adam. For there is no other way in which the people from Adam to Moses were condemned but by their participation in the sin of Adam.
While they did not have the law, God had told Adam “of the fruit of this tree you shall not eat.” But he ate it anyways. He disobeyed God. He sinned, and by sin brought death to all mankind.
Our union with Adam by virtue of being human beings, makes us sinners and brings condemnation and death.
But there is a much better union. (REPEAT: There is a much better union.)
Jesus Christ—the head of the body, the Church—is the representative of all those who believe in Him. We have union with Christ. And in this we end not in the death brought on by sin, but reign in life because of His free gift of righteousness.
Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15:21-22 tells us:
“For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.”
There are then some similarities between Adam and Christ by which their Paul makes his comparison. But there are many differences as well.
III. Differences Between Adam and Christ (Verses 15, 16, 17)
A couple differences between Adam and Christ are easily noted.
1: While Adam sinned, Christ obeyed.
2: While in Adam is condemnation and death, in Christ is justification and life.
And other differences could certainly be mentioned.
But the difference in which Paul wants to focus is that the free gift of righteousness in Jesus Christ is more powerful than the death which came in Adam. Christ’s salvation overcomes the sin and death that Adam brought on.
15 But the free gift is not likethe trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.
16 And the free gift is not likethe result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much morewill those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.
Paul twice here says “much more.”
Much more does the grace of God abound than does trespass of the one man Adam.
And much more does life reign in the free gift of God than does death reign in the trespass of the one man.
The free gift of righteousness in Jesus Christ is much more powerful than the death which came in Adam.
Paul is telling his readers of the assurance of salvation they have in Christ. Salvation is assured because the free gift of righteousness overpowers sin and death. [REPEAT: The free gift of righteousness overpowers sin and death.]
A.Where Sin Increased, Grace Increased All the More (Verses 20, 21)
In the final two verses of this passage Paul then says
20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
We had previously seen that in the time between Adam and Moses, mankind was guilty solely for the sin of their federal head, Adam. But ever since the law is made known to Moses, both the original sin of Adam and our actual sins against that law are counted against us. That is why it is said that “sin increased.”
Sin has increased because where there IS the law, sin is counted.
But while sin increased, grace increased all the more.
God’s grace overpowers and overcomes sin. Death is no longer our fate, but life.
A. We Must Contend for These Truths.
There are many today who do not like these doctrines. They do not like the federal headship of Christ. They do not like the doctrine of imputation. The do not like the doctrine of substitutionary atonement.
But these are exactly what the Bible teaches here in Romans 5.
As our federal head in humanity the original sin of Adam is imputed to us.
But as our federal head in our new humanity, the obedience of Christ is imputed to us. We are saved by Him alone. We are saved by God’s grace alone. And we are saved through faith alone in which we receive the gift of the righteousness of Jesus Christ.
While some do not like these doctrines, there they are. And it was upon these important truths that Martin Luther said is the “standing or falling of the church.” These truths are ESSENTIAL to the Christian faith.
R. C. Sproul has said, “If you don’t have justification by faith alone, you don’t have the gospel. If you don’t have imputation you don’t have justification by faith alone.” And, he said, “This is a hill worth dying on” and that these doctrines are “non-negotiable.”
Justification by faith alone, the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to us in the substitutionary atonement are essential to the Gospel.
Thus we must contend for these truths, for there are none other more important.
B. Be Assured that Christ’s Righteousness Has Overcome Your Sin.
Five times in the passage we hear mention of the “free gift.” And the free gift is explained to be righteousness.
In this righteousness life overcomes death.
And it is by God’s “free gift.”
Though we are sinners who cannot merit eternal life, God has given us the free gift of righteousness in Jesus Christ. God’s grace abounds; it overcomes the death resulting from sin, and it brings us life.
Be assured that in the free gift of righteousness in Jesus Christ which you who believe in Him have received, you have also received eternal life. Be assured, in Jesus Christ. Amen.