In Adam, with Humanity 1.0, the system crashed. God could have written it off as a wasted project, but in His grace He did not. In Christ, the prototype for the next version was revealed, and subsequent human history has been the period of beta testing for Humanity 2.0. The last day will be the final rollout, with every bug finally and completely removed. No more will a man say to his neighbor, “That’s the blue screen of death.”
“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 . . .” (Rom. 5:12-21)
SUMMARY OF THE TEXT:
This is a tightly reasoned portion of Romans, and so we need to take care as we repeat and summarize the teaching of each verse. One man, Adam, brought sin into the world, and death followed. Death came to all men because sin came to all men (v. 12). Before the Torah, sin existed, but sin against the Torah is not imputed when as yet the Torah had not come to be (v. 13). Nevertheless, sin against some standard had to exist, otherwise there would not have been any death between Adam and the giving of the Torah by Moses (v. 14). Those who sinned and died between Adam and Moses did not sin against an explicit command, as Adam did (v. 14). Adam, of course, was a type of the last Adam, Christ (v. 14). But Adam is a contrasting type, not a parallel type. The offence of Adam is not like the free gift of the last Adam (v. 15). Both bequeathed something to “many,” but the work of the last Adam is qualitatively different (v. 15)—life instead of death, and grace instead of penalty. The one that sinned is not like the gift—one brought condemnation, but the free gift brough justification (v. 16). For if the one man’s offense caused death to reign (v. 17), shouldn’t we use that as a measuring rod to show how much more we are going reign in life through Jesus Christ (v. 17)? How screwed up the world is should be taken as a standing testimony for how good it is going to be. Before Paul has said that the parallels both deal with “many.” He now says “all” (v. 18). Condemnation came to all Adam’s descendants, and justification of life will come upon all the last Adam’s descendants. In both cases, those descendants were reckoned, in their time, as the true humanity. One act of disobedience was imputed to many. One act of obedience was imputed to many (v. 19). The reason God brought the Torah into history was to stir up trouble (v. 20). he wanted to make the offence abound, which it did, especially in Israel. But where sin abounded (Israel), grace abounded much more (v. 20). This is where Christ came. God poked the hornet’s nest of Israel with the stick of Torah, and then sent Christ into it. All this was done so that we might know that just as sin reigned to the point of death, so also, and by so much more, we might know that grace is reigning through righteousness to eternal life (v. 21). And how? All through the Lord Jesus, the last Adam, the new human race. He is the perfect man, and He is the one into whom we must mature and grow.
QUALITATIVE NOT QUALITATIVE:
We already saw that the typology here has both a parallel and contrasting function. The parallel is that Adam and Christ are both founders of races. They are both the fathers of their respective desccendants. They are each fathers of “many,” and when it comes to their children, they are the respective fathers of “all.” This is the parallel. But the contrast is qualitative. Adam brought disaster; Christ brought salvation. Adam brought sin, condemnation, and the reign of death. Christ, the last Adam, brought the free gift of obedience, justification, abundance of grace, and the reign of life.
WHEN SIN IS NOT IMPUTED:
Because of the revelation of God’s character that we saw in the first chapter of Romans, it was possible for sin to exist and function in the time between Adam and Moses. Adam sinned against an explicit commandment, and he fell from innocence into the offence. When the Torah came, sinners found themselves stirred up and their lusts exacerbated by the explicit teaching found in Torah. Christ obeyed an explicit command. But even when there is no explicit command (as there was not between Adam and Moses), there is still an implicit and clear moral order, which men know and understand. This is why sin and death existed before the Torah. God is just and He judges us against what we know. But, to our dismay, this simply makes the judgment more certain, inevitable, and holy.
HOW MUCH MORE:
We have noted before that the apostle Paul loves a fortiori argument. He loves to think in terms of “how much more,” and we do him a disservice when we translate this into terms that in effect mean “how much less.” Earlier in chapter 5, he used a standard “how much more” argument. If God did this for His enemies, what will He do for His friends? But here it is a mind-boggling, ricochet kind of argument. Look at the worst that Adam’s sons have been able to do, and use it not to sink your faith, but rather to build it. The only problem of evil that we have here is actually evil’s problem, which is that evil is going to be trampled to death by the goodness of God in human history. Measured against the reign of grace that is coming, the reign of death is puny and anemic. Life swallows up death. Death, thou shalt die.
The sufferings of the present time are not even worth comparing to the coming glory (Rom. 8:18). This means the work of the last Adam does not exceed the devasation of the first by fifteen or twenty percent. It is not more extensive by half as much again. No—do you want to hear good news? All the murders, all the cruelties, all the poverty, all the pettiness, all the sin is all going to be swallowed up in an ocean of infinite kindness and glory. Take the one burning coal of human wickedness, fly it out over the middle of the Pacific somewhere, and throw it in. You don’t need to worry about anything catching on fire.
THAT IS NOT WHERE WE ARE GOING:
Christians who have a divided system (this world/an upper story spiritual world) can often take a stand against human wickedness. They do this because they care about t heir soul, as they should. But without forgetting that, we take a stand against it because that is not where the human race is going.
WHAT IS GOD UP TO?
Picture Adam as the headwaters of a great, enormous river. It is thousands of miles long, and for most of its length, it is several miles wide. Because of Adam’s disobedience, the river is polluted and filthy. But several hundred miles downstream from the headwaters, God determined to establish a new font of water, pure this time. And from that point on, the water downstream got gradually cleaner and cleaner. By the time it reached the sea, it was like liquid crystal. That is what God is up to.