Pastor David B. Curtis


In Adam or In Christ, Pt. 3

Romans 5:18-21

Delivered 06/26/2011

We are continuing and concluding our study of Romans 5:12-21. I said earlier in this study that in order to understand this text, we must understand the corporate nature of it. We must learn to read the Bible from a corporate, not individualist perspective. The biblical perspective is that every person is a member of a community and that membership determines his identity.

For those of you who are Preterists, you know how grasping an understanding of "audience relevance" changed your view of the Scriptures; well I want to propose that grasping an understanding of the "corporate nature" of the Scriptures will have the same effect.

Understanding the corporate nature is tied with the idea that the Bible is ONE book. I have said over and over that we must understand the First Testament if we are going to understand the Second. Paul was a Jew, as he said, "a Hebrew of Hebrews":

circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; Philippians 3:5 NASB

Paul's mind-set was not Hellenistic, but Hebraic. Paul grew up in the synagogue where he gathered with others to hear the Scriptures read to the congregation. The significance of the synagogue experience was that it controlled the way Paul heard the Jewish scriptures, which was corporately. The messages of the prophets were rarely delivered to individuals, they were delivered to the people of the covenant collectively.

Paul follows this principle as he writes his letters. He expects the believers to gather together to hear them read. For individuals to possess a copy of the Scriptures was unheard of. Paul wrote his letters to the churches to be read out loud, and his arguments were constructed with that setting in mind. So the practice of interpreting letters written to churches as though they were to individuals causes serious problems.

The letters of Paul and the other New Testament writers are not about what God has done or is doing for "a Christian," they are what God has done or is doing for His "covenant people," the Church. Let me give you an example of how an individualistic understand will throw us off:

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 NASB

This is normally interpreted as a reference to the believer's physical body being the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit; usually followed by "don't smoke, drink or fornicate," but never do you hear, "don't overeat or eat things that are bad for you." This interpretation overlooks the fact "your," is plural, and that body (soma) is singular. Paul is not talking about their physical bodies, but their corporate body--themselves as a Church--that is the temple of the Holy Spirit. The traditional individualistic interpretation is contrary to all other usage's of the New Testament writers in regard to the concept of the living temple. Elsewhere this concept is always applied to the Church, never to the individual. It is collectively, as the Church, that they are the temple of the Holy Spirit.

Everybody in this room, everyone in this city, everyone in this country, everyone in the world is seen by God corporately as either in Adam or Christ. If God sees you in Adam, then you stand before Him condemned. If God sees you in Christ, then you stand before Him as righteous. All of us were born in Adam. The only way a person moves out of Adam's headship and comes under Christ's headship is by believing in the Lord Jesus Christ. We were born in Adam; we must be born again to be in Christ.

In Romans 5, the emphasis is on Christ, the last Adam, who undoes the work of the first Adam by restoring His people to God. Paul's emphasis is not on Adam and original sin, and how we are all sinners in Adam. Paul's main point is to show how Christ, the Last Adam, has restored us to fellowship with God.

So Romans 5:12-21 is a comparison of two men--Adam & Christ. The comparison is very simple; there are two men, who each performed a single act that brought forth a single result, and the result is experienced by every member in their respective races. The emphasis in this section is on how one man's act affects all he represents.

The portrayal of Christ as the last Adam, the counterpart of the first Adam, is given to us in:

So also it is written, "The first MAN, Adam, BECAME A LIVING SOUL." The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 1 Corinthians 15:45 NASB

So, we have two men, Adam and Christ, and all of humanity is represented by one or the other. The acts of the representatives are imputed to all whom they represent.

In Romans 5:12-21 we see that sin is imputed to us through Adam, and that righteousness is imputed to us through Jesus Christ. The word "impute" means: "to put to somebody's account, to credit someone."

Paul says in writing to Philemon about Onesimus:

If then you regard me a partner, accept him as you would me. But if he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge that to my account; I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand, I will repay it (not to mention to you that you owe to me even your own self as well). Philemon 1:17-19 NASB

Paul tells Philemon that if Onesimus owes him anything, to put it on his account. This is exactly what Jesus Christ did for believers. God took what we owed Him, an unpayable debt, and put it on Christ's account, and Christ paid it in full. This is imputing, and if we are to understand our salvation and its security, we must understand it.

Three Great Acts of Imputation in the Bible:

1. Adam's sin is imputed to us, this is condemnation.

2. The sin's of the elect are imputed to Jesus Christ, this is propitiation.

3. Jesus Christ's righteousness is imputed to believers.

Do you have to be perfect to go to Heaven? Yes! Any violation of God's law is sin, and sin, all sin, any sin, separates us from God. This is why Jesus Christ's righteousness is imputed to us.

After stating the basic doctrine of Adam's federal headship and original sin in verse 12, Paul moves to a parenthetical explanation in verses 13-14 to explain the law and the death. Between Adam and Moses there was sin even though the law wasn't pointing it out, proving that all sinned in Adam. Verses 15-17 show in what points the type (Adam) falls short of the anti-type (Jesus). These verses give the difference in intensity between the destructive and the recovering power. The point of verses 15-17 is to show how Christ is not like Adam. The only thing that is analogous is the one man, one act, affects all he represents. Everything else is in direct contrast.

The main thought of Romans 5:12-21 is found in verses 12, and 18. Verse 18 picks up the comparison "just as" that was started in verse 12 and completes it with "even so." "Just as" one act of Adam affected every member of the human race, "even so" the one act of Jesus Christ affects every member of the elect race:

So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. Romans 5:18 NASB

First we are reminded of what happened to us in Adam. One sin of Adam resulted in all men being condemned. The Greek word that Paul uses for condemnation is katakrima. Katakrima is defined by Suttor in his Lexicon as the punishment following the sentence. It is in a passive formation in the Greek, and it is not likely to refer to the sentence as an edict from the judge, but rather to the punishment, which is death.

Paul is saying that because of that one sin of Adam the whole of mankind are "treated" as sinners. That is what he said in verse 12. Then verse 19 goes further than 18, and it says that not only were all "treated" as sinners, but all were "made" or "regarded" as sinners:

For as through the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous. Romans 5:19 NASB

The Greek word for "made" is kathistemi, it means: "to set down in the rank of, or to place in the category of, to appoint to a particular class." This word is used in:

But He said to him, "Man, who appointed Me a judge or arbitrator over you?" Luke 12:14 NASB

Jesus is asking, "Who appointed me, who constituted me judge?" The word "made" is not causative, but declarative. Those in Adam were declared sinners. It is imperative that we understand this, "For as through the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners" He doesn't say, "made sinful", but "made sinners."

The whole human race has been constituted legally as sinners. That is our judicial standing before God. And it is based entirely and solely on Adam's one act of disobedience. God decreed that the whole of humanity should be represented by the first man and should suffer the consequences of that man's actions. We all sinned in Adam and with Adam because he was our federal head or representative, and, therefore, God pronounced all to be sinners.

That is one side, but thank God there is another side to the parallel--"even so." By the righteous act of one Man, the Lord Jesus Christ, came justification that leads to life:

So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. Romans 5:18 NASB

All men? The text says that the free gift came to all men. We looked at this last week, the "all" must be limited to their representative heads. The free gift came to all men who Christ represents. Remember what we said last week that "all" must be defined by its context. This is not "all" without exception, but "all" without distinction, Jews and Greeks. All without exception would be universalism.

For Paul to teach salvation through faith in Jesus Christ in chapter 3, 4 and the first half of 5, and then all of a sudden teach a doctrine of universalism here in verse 18 makes no sense. What he is simply saying is that all in Adam experience Adam's act and all in Christ experience Christ's act.

Justification happens to all who are connected to Christ the same way condemnation happened to those who are connected to Adam. How is that? Adam acted sinfully and, because we were connected to him, we were condemned in him. Christ acted righteously and, because we are connected to Christ, we are justified in Christ. Adam's sin is counted as ours. Christ's righteousness is counted as ours.

Verse 19 supports this by saying it another way to make sure we get the main point:

For as through the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous. Romans 5:19 NASB

Paul is continually repeating himself in this section with slight changes of emphasis. He wanted to be clearly understood on this matter, which is the crux of the Christian Gospel.

"Even so"--the great truth that we see here is that all we are and have comes out of the obedience of the last Adam--the Lord Jesus Christ. Our salvation is based entirely on Him, and from Him, and in Him. As my being a sinner came entirely from Adam, all my righteousness comes entirely from the Lord Jesus Christ.

Your assurance of salvation comes not from your feelings, but from understanding your identity. Look at yourself in Adam; though you had done nothing, you were declared a sinner. Look at yourself in Christ, and you see that though you have done nothing, you are declared to be righteous. That is the parallel. We must get rid of all thoughts of our actions as far as gaining or keeping salvation. We are made righteous because of the obedience of Jesus, and Jesus alone! Jesus Christ lived a sinless life in total obedience to the law of God and then died a substitutionary death on our behalf:

and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. 1 Peter 2:24 NASB

He bore our sins, all of them, Himself. He doesn't need us to help Him out.

The end of Romans 5:19 says, "Even so through the obedience of the One"-- we see overtones of Isaiah 53 in this verse:

As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; By His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, As He will bear their iniquities. Isaiah 53:11 NASB

Jesus was obedient in everything at all times, but I think the obedience referred to here is His obedience to death:

Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:8 NASB

It was to the will of God that the obedience was given, and even when that will pointed to suffering and death, he accepted it.

Paul goes on to say, "The many will be made righteous"--the people who belong to Christ are "made" righteous. The word "made" is kathistemi it means: "to set down in the rank of, or to place in the category of, to appoint to a particular class." The word has the same meaning and the same force on both sides of the parallel. We are made righteous on the grounds of Christ's obedience alone:

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Corinthians 5:21 NASB

Jesus Christ was regarded and treated as a sinner that we might be regarded and treated as righteous in the sight of God. As a believer, I am righteous, and I will always be righteous because I am in Christ, and Christ never changes, so neither will I:

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Hebrews 13:8 NASB

Jesus Christ the same always! The immutability of my Savior gives me great comfort. If ever He loved me, He loves me forever. If ever He forgave me and saved me, He did so forever. If He ever promised me anything, He promised it to me forever. We live in a day when people's promises mean nothing, people break their promises all the time, but Jesus never will. His word is immutable, just as He is.

These statements put all confidence in Christ alone (solus Christus). The Reformation emphasized that salvation was in Christ alone as a clarification against the teaching of Rome that salvation was in the church and in the deeds one performed according to the church's teaching.

Our text is clear: it is "through the obedience of the One" that we are made righteous. How can we, in good conscience, add something to what Christ alone has done? This answers the people that you talk with that think they can justify themselves before God by reforming their lives or doing good deeds or acting civilly.

Just one act of righteousness, just the obedience of the One--that's what all of our salvation rests upon. How does that affect assurance? In a major way! It is not my performance, but Christ's "one act of righteousness" that saves. My sin cannot undo what "the obedience of the One" accomplished on my behalf. My doubts about God's love and Christ's sufficiency are smashed by the divine emphasis on the one act of Christ that justifies me, a fallen son of Adam.

If you have put your trust in Jesus Christ, God no longer looks at you as a sinner, you are righteous, just as righteous as Jesus Christ. Do you see yourself as "in Christ"?

I am righteous, in spite of all I know to be true of myself, because I am in Christ. I am no longer a sinner in God's eyes, I have been constituted a righteous person.

When you look at yourself practically, you will see your sin. But when you look at yourself positionally, you see your new identity, your perfect righteousness, your glorious position with God in the heavenly places. Your life in the world, your peace, your joy, your contentment is dependent upon where you look.

Because we have been made righteous, we should desire to live up to what we are. Living a life in obedience to the Word of God should be done out of gratitude for all God has done for us.

The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, Romans 5:20 NASB

Paul has something to say that is not essential to the argument, but he knew it would be helpful, especially to the Christian Jews. If Adam and Christ are the two sources of sin and righteousness, where does the Mosaic Law come in? Between Adam and Christ stood Moses, revered by the Jews and often seen as the most significant figure among the sons of men because of the giving of The Law to Israel. According to what Paul has told us, The Law does not justify, and The Law does not even condemn us--we are all condemned by the one sin of Adam. What, then, is the purpose of the Mosaic Law?

Verse 20 says, "The Law came in"--the words "came in" here are from the Greek word pareiserchomai, which means: "to enter alongside." The Law entered in by the side of sin that already entered. The word is used in secular Greek of an actor that played a subordinate role. Paul tells us by the use of this word that The Law in and of itself is not something that is of fundamental importance to us. The Law was never intended as a way of salvation:

because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin. Romans 3:20 NASB

God didn't give The Law to Israel in order to give them the opportunity to save themselves by obeying it, as some have taught. Lewis Sperry Chafer wrote, "There are two widely different, standardized, divine provisions, whereby man, who is utterly fallen may come into the favor of God" (Bibliotheca Sacra, Vol. 93, 1936, p.410). That is wrong! The only way anyone can come into favor with God is by faith in Jesus Christ.

The biblical scholar, F.F. Bruce, writes, "The Law has no permanent significance in the history of redemption." There are only two things that have permanent significance in the history of redemption, one is the act of Adam, the other is the act of Christ. For the act of Adam will be that which damns the lost forever. And the act of Christ is that which redeems the elect forever.

"The transgression"--the singular is a reference to the singular transgression of Adam that he has been talking about all along in this paragraph.

Why was The Law given, what was its purpose? To increase sin! Why would God want to increase sin. God gave The Law to Israel to show that men, all men, are sinners. If we had not fallen in Adam, each of us would have sinned personally and fallen. God was just to make Adam our federal head.

Paul goes on to say, "But where the sin increased, the grace abounded all the more." What sin increased? The sin, the sin of Adam. Just like Adam was given law and broke it, so also Israel was given Law and broke it. So Adam's sin was duplicated by Israel and thus increased. They sinned in the likeness of Adam.

Some translations use the word "abounded" in both sides of the statement. But they aren't the same words in the Greek. They are actually completely different. When he says, "Where the sin increased," he uses a word that speaks of addition. But when he says "Grace abounded," he uses a word that means multiplication. The first "abounded" is pleonazo, which means: "to increase." The second use of "abound" is huperperisseuo, which means: "to super abound, to abound beyond measure." Where the sin increased, the grace super abounded.

So what was once "one transgression" in which we all shared by virtue of the union with Adam that God ordained for all humanity, has now, because of The Law, become millions upon millions of specific transgressions.

What grace has done is not merely to counteract exactly what sin has done. If the effect of grace had merely been to wipe out and to cancel all that had happened on the other side, we would have had reason to praise God through all eternity. But grace super abounds. It not only cancels our debt, it gives us the righteousness of God.

The story of JOHN NEWTON is one of super abounding grace. His mother died when he was seven years old, but she had taught him many verses of Scripture. He was reared in the home of a relative, and became an apprentice seaman. Wild and dissolute, he deserted from the British Navy and ran away to Africa in order, as he put it in his memoirs, "that I might sin my fill." He had the reputation of being able to curse for two hours without repeating himself. In Africa he fell in with a Portuguese slave-trader, and while this man was absent from his home, John Newton was treated like a dog by the chief black woman of the trader's harem. For months he was forced to grovel in the dirt and pick up his food with his mouth from the ground, being lashed by a slave if he touched it with his hands. Thin and emaciated, he decided to attempt an escape. He reached a spot on the coast where, with a signal fire, he attracted the attention of a passing ship. The master, thinking that he was a native wishing to sell ivory, sent a small boat which took him to the ship. Since he was a skilled navigator, he became first mate; but while the captain was ashore one day, John broke out the ship's rum and got the whole crew drunk. Upon his return, the captain struck him so violently that he fell overboard and would have drowned in his drunken condition, had not a sailor speared him in the thigh with a boat hook, making a wound so great that from then on John Newton could put his first into the scar.

Weeks later, while the ship was returning to Britain, a great storm arose. She passed north of Ireland and off the coast of Scotland and almost sank. Newton, who had been manning the pumps for days, cried out to God, and was wonderfully saved.

John Newton became a pillar of the Church of England, chaplain to Parliament, and even preached before the King. This old African blasphemer wrote the song, "Amazing Grace."

No wonder John Newton was a great preacher of grace. He had learned that where sin abounded, grace did much more abound; grace overflowed; grace was infinite. And he was an astounding illustration of the fact that grace is not withheld because of sin:

so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 5:21 NASB

Here we see two kingdoms, those of sin and grace. Let's read this is YLT:

that even as the sin did reign in the death, so also the grace may reign, through righteousness, to life age-during, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 5:21 YLT

"The sin" of Adam involves us in a situation where we are not dominant, but subordinate. We cannot break free from the sin, so it reigns. We cannot escape the death, so it reigns. Spiritual death cannot be conquered by man.

"So also"--the grace reigns through righteousness. Grace is God's unmerited favor shown to the undeserving. Remission of a penalty is not grace. Grace did not deliver the lawful captives without paying the ransom. It did not trample on justice. It reigns by providing a Savior to suffer in the place of the guilty.

being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Romans 3:24-26 NASB

Our salvation is a righteous salvation. When we get to Heaven, we'll have a right to be there. Grace leads "to eternal life"--how long would you think eternal life would last? Our salvation is forever! Eternal life lasts forever. What is the answer to the arithmetic problem, Infinity minus 10,000 equals? The answer is: infinity. Only finite numbers become smaller when you subtract something from them.

With Adam is bound up the entrance of sin into the world and the reign of sin, condemnation, and death. With Christ is bound up the entrance of righteousness and the reign of grace, righteousness, justification, and life.

These two men are the pivots of redemptive revelation; the first as making redemption necessary; the second as accomplishing and securing redemption.

Our salvation is secure. We are much better off now than we would have been had Adam never sinned. We posses the very righteousness of God. Grace reigns over our sin. No matter how much we sin, grace reigns.

In conclusion, then, it is Christ's obedience which saves your soul for eternity. Not yours, but His. It was Adam's disobedience that damns you, and Christ's obedience which saves you. As Adam and you owe a perfect life to merit heaven, so Christ lived that perfect life on earth for you, and so merited heaven. Now the scriptures are clear --Christ did this only for His elect, but are you elect? Ask yourself this: "Do I truly trust Christ alone for my salvation?" If you can say, "Yes" to that, then I can assure you of this: though by the disobedience of Adam you were made a sinner, by the obedience of Christ you have been made eternally righteous.

Birth is both the cause and the cure for man's sin. Jesus told Nicodemus:

Jesus answered and said to him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." John 3:3 NASB

How was it that the human race fell into sin? It was on account of Adam. But how did each individual fall under the curse? It was by being born. Birth made one a son of Adam and thus a sinner. The solution to the guilt of sin encountered at birth was another birth, a second birth. In order to be saved, men must exchange their identity with Adam (by which they are condemned) to an identity with Christ (by which they are justified). As birth was the source of a man's sin, so another birth is the solution.

This is what the Gospel is all about. Jesus Christ came to the earth to provide men a cure for the curse which Adam's sin brought upon all mankind. The Gospel calls us to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. It is ceasing to trust in what we are, but clinging to who Jesus Christ is. It is finding our identity in Christ, rather than in Adam. It is turning from condemnation to justification, from death to life, and from Adam to Jesus Christ.

Please note that everything we have is "Through Jesus Christ our Lord." All we have comes to us by virtue of the Last Adam. Paul started with this in verse 1, "Through our Lord Jesus Christ." Then he said it again in verse 9, "Saved from wrath through Him." And again in verse 10, "Reconciled to God by the death of His Son...saved by His life." Again in verse 11, "We have joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ." And in verse 15, "By one Man, Jesus Christ." And verse 17, "Shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ." And again in verse 21, "By Jesus Christ our Lord." Our salvation is all about Jesus Christ and His obedience.

Paul will not let us get sidetracked from the central focal point of the Gospel. It is all about Jesus Christ, God's Son becoming Man, dying as our substitute before God's fury, and raised from the dead as Lord over all. So grace does not reign through our church attendance or our service or our conforming to certain lifestyles. Grace reigns through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Continue the Series

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