1st or 2nd Adam?
Read Romans 5:12-21
We have been shown through verses 1-11 that we can be assured of our salvation. This is guaranteed through the justification we have received through His blood and we have now been reconciled to God. The hope of our salvation is still to come, however, it is so certain that we are able to talk about it as though we have already received it.
Verse 12 opens with, "Therefore", however, the point about to be made is not a 'result of', or a conclusion, but rather a further point. This section of scripture sets up a comparison, similar to what we see elsewhere in the bible, where a person or item is a foreshadowing of what we have in Jesus. The words "just as" start to show us the comparison before us.
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- (Romans 5:12)
Here we begin to see that 1st Adam foreshadows 2nd Adam (being Jesus), but 2nd Adam is only greater. Jesus reverses the curse brought in by 1st Adam. Other examples of foreshadowing include:
The Temple - John 2:19
Moses - Deuteronomy 18:18, Hebrews 3:1-6
The sacrificial system - John 1:19-29
Isaac's near sacrifice - Genesis 22:1-19
This parallelism is the focus of these verses. With Adam (and Eve) comes sin and death, and with Jesus, righteousness and life. Each 'Adam' impacts all people. All those who belong to Christ can be confident of His reign and eternal life.
Sin entered the world
Sin equals death
Because all have sinned - in and with Adam (Genesis 2:17)
We are separated from God
In verses 15-17 we see Jesus lifting the curse. Just as one sin impacted the many (all mankind), one gift impacts the many. The first brings judgement and condemnation, the 2nd brings Justification and reconciliation.
The comparison of Adam's sin which caused death to reign in the world, and now life reigns, through Christ and God's abundant provision of grace towards us. Adam's disobedience compared to Jesus's obedience - truly amazing!
In between verses 12 and 15, Paul expands on the role of the law in this. Almost preempting a question regarding sin and the law. The point here is that sin was in the world before the law. The law however elevates sin, by providing the line that the sin crosses. This means that we now transgress - we cross that line (knowing or otherwise). The law has made us accountable. It acts as a mirror to our own life. The answer, the only answer is God's grace. The only answer is Jesus!
These verses present two issues for us. The first is relatively easy to answer. The second is not as clear-cut.
The first issue is the question of universalism. That is the belief that all humankind will eventually be saved. The idea is that because Adam sinned, all mankind now has sin, (which is labelled original sin). And now that Christ came and died on the cross, we (mankind) are all saved, regardless of whether we have repented and believe in Jesus. This is easy to correct. Throughout the New Testament, it is made very clear that Jesus is the Way. For example John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (emphasis added). Even here in Romans 5:17b we see defining clarity:
those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!
The second issue is original sin itself. We believe that the scriptures teach that man was created in holiness, for fellowship with his creator, subject to His Law but wilfully transgressed from that holy and happy state. As a result all humankind is now sinful, and the whole of creation groans, being in a continual state without the holiness demanded of the Holy God demands. As a consequence humankind is without excuse and has no defence lost and worthy only of eternal separation from God, His Maker.
Some extra verses to look up include: Genesis 3:19, 1 Kings 8:46, Proverbs 4:23, Jeremiah 17:9, Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23, Hebrews 3:12, and 1 John 3:4.
One of the implications of this is what happens to children or those without the capacity to repent and accept Christ? What about a faithful servant who has contracted dementia in their later years and can no longer have fellowship with Christ? In the shadow of original sin comes the reality that they don't fit the discipleship model presented in the New Testament. Where does this leave us? The truth is we don't know for sure. What I would say is that God is loving, faithful and full of grace. There is no evil in Him, only light. And while scripture is clear that the only way to salvation is through Jesus Christ, God also knows each person's heart, capacity and their situation. This gives me great encouragement that someone unable to hear and/or accept Christ for a variety of reasons, spiritually God knows them and has not forsaken them. The world excludes, and while the path is narrow to God, it is not the same as someone who actively rejects, rebels or is agnostic towards God. Ultimately God will decide so it comes down to who God is, not our earthly parameters and judgement.
What we can say is that for all those able to hear and receive Christ and don't, will perish. Sin and death still enslave you and the only way to freedom is through knowing, believing and following Jesus. Does the curse of Adam still entangle you, or have you given yourself to the 2nd Adam - Christ - and you live in the certain hope we have, reconciled to the living God?