In Romans 5, Paul writes about Adam and puts into context the human story and where it all went wrong for us.
By way of confession, I rarely consider Adam and the fall of man, at least in the same way that I consider historical events to which I was a witness.
Not that I have been a witness to many fundamental moments in world history, but mostly personal ones in my own history.
Although I wasn’t there in New York on 11 September 2001, in a very real sense, I was along with millions of people who were witnessing events in real time. An event that would re-shape geo-politics that would re-shape how we travel and how we think about the nexus of politics and religion.
Many of us were as good as eyewitnesses to 9/11, a moment in time that drew us all together, an event that formed the creation of a zeitgeist as absolutely as the Kennedy assassination defined the 1960’s.
In the years since then, we have seen the explosion of the internet and its uses, driverless cars, innovations in space travel, the ubiquity of social media. And into this context, I want you to think about Adam, as Paul did the Romans as well as the church today.
You may wonder what the significance of this is. It’s the foundation that explains why we are the way we are, and it is in light of this that the cross is so significant and makes sense.
Paul accepts the account of Genesis 3 and the fall of man as a historical fact, an event that actually took place.
And like 11 September 2001, I was as good as there. So were all of us. My genetic make-up is infused with my relationship to Adam and to his sin.
“12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned”
Is it fair that we who have been born after Adam bear the penalty for his actions? You may not think so, but consider that if Adam’s sin could trickle through to us and infect us, the righteousness of Christ could be introduced to us and take away that sin.
Engage in a thought-experiment: You stand on your own, not associated with Adam at all, a free moral agent who can sin, or not sin in the garden. How long would you or I have lasted in state of sinlessness? Adam and Eve had every benefit and still managed to find themselves in a mess.
You didn’t make the rules, you didn’t establish the principles that govern righteousness and sin. Adam and Eve fell, and that present fact is so deeply ingrained in our human experience that we no longer consider it consciously.
One sin was all it took to condemn all humanity going forward. Paul writes ‘one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people’ (5:18, NIV).
One sin. All humanity. That’s a big deal, that’s how serious sin is.
Paul compares and contrasts Adam and Christ. Both were sinless from the beginning and both performed acts that had consequences for all mankind:
15 But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!
Adam’s sin was tragic but Christ’s sacrifice (and gift of righteousness) was stupendous. As completely as one sin infected the human race, it was to a greater degree that one act of righteousness by Christ brought grace to man.
One righteous act, that’s how significant it was. To wipe out sin, centuries and millennia of it.
Paul compares and contrasts Adam and Christ. Both were sinless from the beginning and both performed acts that had consequences for all mankind. This is what is called a ‘Federal Theology’. A federal state means that representatives speak for and represent the people that choose them.
The natural man is born in sin, sins, chooses yet more sin and in the default setting, is represented by Adam. We are born in Adam. We are born-again in Christ.
Adam represents us whether we choose that he does or not. The only alternative choice we have is Christ.
Although I wasn’t there in New York on 11 September 2001, in a very real sense, I was along with millions of people who were witnessing events in real time. And like 11 September 2001, I was as good as there when Adam and Eve sinned.
In a very real sense, I was also there in Jerusalem when Christ was crucified. A historical event, a true event that I ‘witnessed’ and more importantly, took part in. I go to the foot of the cross often.
The gift is greater than the trespass. We are all familiar with sin and the consequences, and the fear of death. Paul writes that even more certain and overwhelming than sin and death is the grace to ‘reign in life’ for the Believer.
If the reality of sin is pressing on us, the reality of life through Him is even more present.