Romans: The New Adam

Romans: The New Adam

How many arguments have been started over issues of fairness? We fight with our kids because they think a rule isn’t fair or we fight with our friends because they weren’t treating us fairly. Yet, who has really defined fair and how to determine if we are or are not being treated with fairness? It seems rather arbitrary and abstract when we determine exactly what the definition of “fair” is. Even the dictionary definition states, fair as meaning “in accordance with the rules or standards; legitimate.” Of course, we love to define our own rules, making sure they benefit us and our happiness. Yet we don’t live by our set of rules, we live by the governance and authority of God.

As it says so well in Holy Trinity by Robert Letham, “It is a question of whom we obey – God or mammon (Matt 6:24), God or idols (Josh 24:15), for the alternative is truly demeaning slavery, that of sin and willful self-assertion, setting ourselves up as a yardstick of what is right. A rejection on principle of obedience to God leaves no coherent basis to distinguish between the morals of Mother Teresa or Adolf Hitler. Instead Jesus obeyed the Father. His obedience won us salvation.”

At a glance, the concept of inherited sin doesn’t sound very fair to us. Romans 5:12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, in this way death spread to all men, because all sinned” With the actions of man in Genesis 3, all of humankind was sentenced to death. Even while we didn’t yet even exist, we became also became cursed as men of lawlessness. We could kick and scream about being punished for someone else’s action. It’s a lot like when parents put both kids in time out even if the other wasn’t guilty of starting the fight. Yet just because one child didn’t start the fight, that doesn’t mean he isn’t pre-disposed to sin and given then chance he likely would have been the one to throw the first punch. Yet if children were fighting and their mother told them neither was in trouble; then wouldn’t they just be thrilled to continue to play and not experience a punishment?

And so it is with imputed grace. Romans 5:18-19 “So then, as through one trespass there is condemnation for everyone, so also through one righteous act there is life-giving justification for everyone. 19 For just as through one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so also through the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.  Christ is the new Adam, except instead of choosing the way of sin, Christ was blameless and obedient. Out of His obedience to God, he became the perfect sacrifice and justification for us. He imputed our sin on the cross and we imputed righteousness.  Christ took our sin and gave us His righteousness. By accepting this through faith alone do we receive justification and reconciliation back to God.”

These two different examples of obedience are reflected in 1 Corinthians 15:22, “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.” Two men, two examples of what happens out of disobedience or obedience to God. All of us have the option to choose whether we will remain as Adam, dead in our sins or if we will remain in Christ, alive and experiencing eternal righteousness.

We see throughout the Old Testament and even shortly after the fall in the events of Cain and Abel an example in living in obedience vs disobedience. We see it again in David and Saul, one lost his blessing from God due to disobedience while the other (while still a sinner) had a heart turned towards God and instead received the blessing of being the heritage line from which Jesus came. Or perhaps we could look at the story of Jacob and Esau where Esau sold his birthright to Jacob. Esau was considered a godless man (Hebrews 12:16) while Jacob considered a godly man of integrity and Jacob received the blessing and is in the lineage of Jesus, had his name changed to Israel after wrestling with God, and considered the patriarch of the Israelites.

One interesting point I’d like to reflect on is that through the first Adam, we received sin and curses. And in the stories of Saul, Cain, and Esau they were all the first chosen or first born and they disregarded their inheritance and blessings. It was the second born / chosen that indeed ended up receiving God’s blessing, just as through the second Adam we received our blessing of imputed righteousness.

Therefore, we can choose to continue to live a life like Saul, Esau, Cain or Adam, but we will only receive death. Or we can choose to live like David, Jacob, Abel and live as the new Adam- Christ, receiving abounding grace to cover our multitude of sins and experiencing eternal life.

If you’re like me, the first time you read Romans 5 it may have felt like Paul was talking in riddles. The first time I really read Romans I had limited biblical knowledge and I hadn’t heard of the doctrine of justification, because of that I enjoy reflecting on this key passage through the Message version as well. The meaning of the passage may still feel difficult to understand, but the simplistic language helps detangle the riddle and is easier to read.

Romans 5:8-21 Here it is in a nutshell: Just as one person did it wrong and got us in all this trouble with sin and death, another person did it right and got us out of it. But more than just getting us out of trouble, he got us into life! One man said no to God and put many people in the wrong; one man said yes to God and put many in the right” All that passing laws against sin did was produce more lawbreakers. But sin didn’t, and doesn’t, have a chance in competition with the aggressive forgiveness we call grace. When it’s sin versus grace, grace wins hands down. All sin can do is threaten us with death, and that’s the end of it. Grace, because God is putting everything together again through the Messiah, invites us into life—a life that goes on and on and on, world without end.”

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