The FISHERS Magazine (Issue 226)

Death in Adam but Life in Christ


The Apostle Paul’s gospel message from Romans 5:12-17, speaks of two men, Adam and Jesus Christ. Both these men have profoundly impacted the human race. Martyn Lloyd-Jones says, “The whole story of the human race can be summed up in terms of what has happened because of Adam, and what has happened and will yet happen because of Jesus Christ.”

Through One Man
Starting from Romans 5:12, Paul points out a sharp contrast between Adam and Jesus Christ. All men and women are identified either with Adam or with Christ. A natural person is first born into Adam by flesh, but a spiritual one is re-born into Christ by the Holy Spirit.

Paul says that “sin came into the world through one man” (v. 12). What does the word ‘world’ mean? In that context, it means the world of humanity, that is, the human race. It speaks about the introduction of sin into the human race through one man.

The phrase, ‘through one man’ is important to note. Adam is the ‘one man’, the first created human being. Paul is going to compare Adam with another ‘one man’ (v. 15), a far greater figure who came after Adam, who is Jesus Christ. Paul calls Christ the ‘second Adam’ or ‘last Adam’ in 1 Corinthians 15:45 & 47, to point out the pivotal role of Adam and Jesus in the destiny of mankind.

Original Sin
Adam is a real historical person and is a special man because he was the first man and the head of human race. In the gospel of Luke, the genealogy of Jesus was traced all the way to Adam (Lk 3:38).

God created Adam and Eve as the first man and woman, sinless in nature (Gen 1:31), and placed them in a garden paradise. God gave one command to Adam that he must not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, otherwise he would surely die (Gen 2:16-17). Adam wilfully disobeyed and ate the forbidden fruit.

Hence, Adam committed sin against God. Sin is disobedience to God, breaking His law and it amounts to rebellion against God. Adam disobeyed God and was responsible for sin. He could have obeyed, but he chose to disobey. This is the original sin.

Sin may be pleasurable for a short while but it never satisfies. Did Adam find fulfilment after eating the forbidden fruit? No, for immediately, Adam experienced shame, guilt and fear. After eating the fruit, Adam and Eve hid themselves in shame when God came to seek them. Sin caused an immediate loss of fellowship with God. Sin also caused corruption in Adam’s own nature (Gen 3:7-10) and brought curse to the created world (Gen 3:17, Rom 8:20). The impact of sin is awful and terrifying!

Spread of Sin
An important principle from verse 12 is that the deed of the first man Adam affected all men. This principle is important because it is through the same principle that another man would reverse the sin effects of Adam.

Verse 12 says, “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”. This verse states three truths – first, that sin entered the world and the human race through one man, Adam; second, sin resulted in death - physical, spiritual and eternal death; third, death spread to all men because all have sinned.

All men are guilty and condemned through Adam, as Paul says in verse 18, “one trespass led to condemnation for all men”. Furthermore, in verse 19, Paul says that “by the one man’s disobedience, we are made sinners”. In other words, we inherited the sinful nature of Adam and that sinful nature is in each of us.

Because we are born with a sinful nature, we have a natural inclination to rebel and disobey God. The sinful behaviour is obvious even in young children who disobey their parents naturally. In our natural state, we may seek fulfilment and pleasure, but we do not seek God (Rom 3:11).

Reign of Death
Death is the inevitable result of sin because “The wages of sin is death” (Rom 6:23). Death is physical, spiritual and eternal. At the moment Adam sinned, the effects of death set in immediately (Gen 3:19). Spiritual death refers to separation from God. The effect of this on Adam was also immediate after the fall (Gen 3:23-24). Eternal death is the second death in the lake of fire. It would occur when a person died physically, and in a state of spiritual death (Rev 20:6), “It is appointed for man to die once, and after that come judgment” (Heb 9:27). So, physical death is not the end of man. There is spiritual death, that is judgment from God, awaiting man after death if he has remained in Adam.

Paul explains how we may know that men inherited the guilt and sin nature of Adam in verses 13-14. Men still died even though they did not transgress the way Adam did. The reason is that men’s sin is in them because they are sinners by nature and death is the inevitable consequence.

Some people find it hard to accept the fact that sin and death spread to all men through one man, Adam. Some may say that this is not fair. Before you protest against God, hold your judgment until you come to verses 15-17, and see the enormous grace of God.

Free Gift in Christ
First, Paul says, “But the free gift is not like the 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” (v. 15). Adam brought death to many because of trespass, but Christ brought the free gift to many because of the grace of God. The amazing truth of the Gospel is that salvation is a free gift. It is given to us free, although it was at a great cost to Christ. Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, He was buried, and He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures (1 Cor 15:3-4).

God offers salvation as a free gift because no one can ever achieve salvation by any way. No one can earn salvation by his own effort through the keeping of the law or good works. Paul says in Galatians 2:16, “by works of the law no one will be justified”.

God requires perfection from us as He is perfect (Matt 5:48). God’s standard of righteousness refers to His perfection in every attribute including morality, justice, uprightness. However, God’s standard is simply beyond human’s ability to achieve. To illustrate with an easy example, God’s standard may be likened to setting a standard for long-jump. The Olympics’ record for long-jump is about 30 feet. If the minimum requirement for long-jump is set at 100 feet long, who can ever manage it? Nobody - this is humanly impossible. Yet, in His mercy and grace, God provides the way to meet His standard.

Justification in Christ
Second, Paul says, “And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification” (v. 16). Adam brought condemnation, but Christ brought justification. Condemnation and justification are legal terms. Condemnation means the pronouncement of guilt and sentence of death. In divine judgment, unrepentant sinners in Adam are condemned to death because of unforgiven sins.

On the other hand, justification means the pronouncement of righteousness by God. Sins of repentant sinners are forgiven in Christ and removed by the precious blood of Christ through faith. Moreover, believers are clothed or credited with Christ’s righteousness. This is the grace of God.

Believers Reign in Christ
Third, Paul says, “For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ” (v. 17). Death reigned in Adam, but believers reign in life through Christ. Paul extends the contrast between Christ and Adam to this climax.

The word ‘reign’ means to rule like a king with final authority. Which master rules in your life – death or life? It cannot be both. In this sense, all men are at a crossroad of choice, either to remain in Adam (death) or to choose Christ (life). Christ says in Matthew 7:13-14 that there are two gates – the broad gate or the narrow gate. The way for the broad gate is easy and many enter it, but it leads to destruction. The way for the narrow gate is difficult and few find it, but it leads to life. Christ is the narrow gate.

Christ Surpasses Adam
The truth that grace is ‘much more’ than sin is emphasized several times. Whatever we have lost in Adam, much more we have gained in Christ. In every aspect, Christ surpasses Adam. God has the mighty power to save and He is also gracious. Grace simply means unmerited favour and grace is shown when we are blessed when we do not deserve it. God hates sin, yet Christ was willing to die for us while we are still sinners (Rom 5:8).

Christianity is unique in that God’s saving grace is shown through His justice. Sin must be punished to satisfy God’s justice and such a punishment occured at the cross of Christ. God sent His only Son as the “Lamb of God” to die on our behalf, as our substitute. That is why Romans 3:26 says that God “might be just and justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus”. God is just in punishing sin, and He justifies us through His only Son, Jesus Christ.

Christ had accomplished much in His life and death. No matter what we have lost in Adam, we gain much more in Christ when we believe and trust in Him. Christ is not just an ordinary man, He is also fully God, the second person in the Godhead. A believer is a new creation and is indwelt with the Holy Spirit, the third person in the Godhead (2 Cor 5:17, John 14:17). A believer is a transformed person, freed from the slavery of sin.

Does God’s Forgiveness Extend to All Sins?
Romans 5:16 says that from many trespasses came the free gift. What does ‘many trespasses’ mean? How many are ‘many’? Does the free gift of grace cover all sins? The answer may be found in verse 20 where it says, “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more”. Grace overwhelmed and overcame sin. What this means is that Jesus’s one act at the cross has paid for all sins of believers - past, present and future.

So, are all sins forgivable? Yes, all sins of a truly repentant sinner are forgiven by God. Anyone who repents of his sins receives forgiveness. Anyone who turns from sin to God through Christ receives forgiveness of sins. For true believers, their sins have been placed on Christ at the cross, as affirmed in Colossians 2:13-14, “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by cancelling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This He set aside, nailing it to the cross”.

No sin is beyond the grace of God. We receive all the benefits of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ. Faith means a commitment to Christ, trust in Christ, with our mind, heart and will. Saving faith is not passive, but it leads a person to look to Christ, embrace Christ, and receive Christ. The only way sin is forgiven is by faith in Christ – a relationship with Christ through faith.

God is rich in kindness, tolerance and patience (Rom 2:4). The Apostle Peter says that God “is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Repentance and faith always happen together. Without repentance, there is no forgiveness; where there is no faith in Christ, there can be no salvation.

There is a grave danger for a person who has heard the Gospel repeatedly without a heart response. A persistent and continual resistance to the Gospel may lead to a dull and hardened heart. Do not let that happen to you.

In God’s eyes, there are only two categories of people in the world. Every person is either in Jesus Christ or in Adam. Eternal life reigns for all who are in Christ through faith because their sins are forgiven. They are freed from the bondage of sin. Conversely, eternal death reigns for all who are in Adam because there is no forgiveness of sins outside of Christ. Without faith in Christ, unrepentant sinners remain in sin and death.

God “commands all people everywhere to repent, because He has fixed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom He has appointed; and of this He has given assurance to all by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:30-31). This points to the resurrected Christ who will be the Judge of the world one day.

The command to repent and believe in Christ is clear. If you have heard the command of God, do not delay in your response to the call, as you do not know how long more you will live. Physical death will seal the fate of a person eternally. It is foolish to disobey the command of God for “Everyone who believes in Him (Christ) will not be disappointed.” for “Whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:11, 13).

Peter Ooi
- Peter Ooi is an associate member of The ‘Fisherman of Christ’ Fellowship and an editor of Fishers.

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