The Dead Still Speak

In July of 2011, a man who I greatly admire (one of my Anglican friends calls him a “stud” for Christ) passed away.  His name is John Stott and while you may not know his name, his influence was felt in the lives of many, and will be felt for years to come.  Reverend Stott was a preacher, theologian and author in the course of his lifetime.  One book that He wrote stands out as a tremendous influence on my life.  It is a little book called Men Made New.  This book is an exposition of Romans chapters 5-8 and is based on a conference he was asked to speak at in the late 1950’s or early 1960’s.  I have read this book several times in the past year and a half and am always amazed at how 108 pages can change your life.  But, what is even more amazing is how one sentence from the Word of God can do the same thing.  Anyway, today I’m posting an excerpt of this book and hope that it edifies you.

Peace With God

Romans 5:1-19

Romans 5 divides clearly into two distinct paragraphs.  The first eleven verses portray the fruits or results of our justification, while verses 12-19 show us the Mediator of our justification, the One through whom justification has come to us – namely Jesus Christ, the second Adam.

  1. THE FRUITS OF OUR JUSTIFICATION

(5:1-11)

  Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Through him we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God.  More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us.

  While we were yet helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.  Why, one will hardly die for a righteous man – though perhaps for a good man one will dare even to die.  But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.  Since, therefore, we are now justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.  For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.  Not only so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received our reconciliation.[1]

  1. The fruits described (verses 1, 2)

  Here we have a summary of the results of justification in three sentences.  First, ‘we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (verse 1).  Secondly (verse 2a), we have ‘obtained access (through the same Christ and through the same faith) to this grace in which we stand’.  Thirdly (verse 2b), ‘we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God.’  Here are the fruits of our justification:  Peace, grace and glory.  Peace with God (which we have), grace (in which we stand), and glory (for which we hope).

  On a closer examination these appear to relate to the three tenses or phases of our salvation.  ‘Peace with God’ speaks of the immediate effect of justification.  We were ‘enemies’ of god (verse 10), but now the old enmity has been put away by God’s forgiveness and we are at peace with Him.  The immediate effect of justification, then, is that enmity has given way to peace.

  Secondly, ‘this grace in which we stand’ speaks of the continuing effect of justification.  It is a state of grace to which we have obtained access and in which we continue to stand.  This is how the New English Bible puts it:  ‘We have been allowed to enter the sphere of God’s grace.’  And, of course, having entered it we continue in it.  We stand in it today.

  Thirdly, ‘the glory of God’ for which we hope speaks of the ultimate effect of justification.  ‘The glory of God’ here means heaven, because in heaven God Himself will be fully revealed (‘glory” in biblical language is the manifestation of God).  We are going to see God’s glory in heaven, and even share in it (since then we shall be like Christ, 1 John 3:2).  ‘Hope’ is our sure and certain confidence or expectation.  This is ‘the hope of glory’, for which we give thanks in the General Thanksgiving.  Indeed, so sure is this hope (what J. B. Phillips calls this ‘happy certainty’) that we can rejoice in it now already.  ‘We rejoice in our hope (that is in our certain confidence) of . . . the glory of God.’

  These three phrases paint a balanced picture of the Christian life in relation to God.  There is nothing here about our relation to our neighbor, but as far as our relation to God is concerned they constitute a beautiful summary of the Christian life:  Peace, grace, and glory.  In the word ‘peace’ we look back to the enmity which is now over.   In the word ‘grace’ we look up to our reconciled Father in whose favour we now continue to stand.  In the word ‘glory’ we look on to our final destiny, seeing and reflecting the glory of God, which is the object of our hope or expectation.

  1. Suffering, the pathway to glory (verses 3, 4)

  This does not mean to say, of course, that after justification the narrow way is all carpeted all along with moss and primroses.  No; brambles grow on it, too, and brambles with sharp thorns.  ‘More than that,’ says Paul in verse 3, ‘we rejoice in our sufferings.’  Peace, grace, glory – yes, but suffering as well.

  Now these sufferings, strictly speaking, are not sickness or pain, sorrow or bereavement, but tribulation (thlipsis), the pressure of a godless and hostile world.  Yet such suffering is always the pathway to glory.  The risen Lord Himself said so.  He declared that, according to the Old Testament, the Christ must suffer and so enter into His glory (Luke 24:26).  And what is true of Christ is true of the Christian as well, since the servant is not greater than his Lord.  Paul himself says so later, in Romans 8:17:  ‘provided we suffer with him (Christ) in order that we may also be glorified him.’

  Note carefully the relation between our present sufferings and our future glory.  It is not just that the one is the way to the other.  Still less is it that we grin and bear the one in anticipation of the other.  No.  According to the text the relation between the two is the element of rejoicing:  we both rejoice in both.  If we ‘rejoice’ in our hope of glory (verse 2), we ‘rejoice’ in our sufferings as well (verse 3).  And the verb is a strong one (kauchōmetha).  It indicates, as the NEB renders it, that we ‘exult’ in them.  Present suffering and future glory are both objects of a Christian’s exultation.  How is this?  How can we possibly rejoice in our sufferings?  How can we find joy in what causes pain?  Verses 3-5 explain the paradox.

  It is not that we rejoice in the sufferings themselves, so much as in their beneficial results.  We are not masochists who enjoy being hurt.  We are not even Stoics who grit their teeth and endure.  We are Christians, who see in our sufferings the outworking of a gracious, divine purpose.  We rejoice because of what suffering ‘produces’.  That is the word the RSV chooses:  ‘Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character.’  It is because of what suffering produces (katergazetai) that we rejoice in it.  Well, then, what are the outworkings of tribulation?  The process is given us in three stages.

  Stage 1:  suffering produces endurance.  That is, the very endurance we need in suffering is produced by it, much as antibodies are produced in the human body by infection.  We could not learn endurance without suffering, because without suffering there would be nothing to endure.  So suffering produces endurance.

  Stage 2:  endurance produces character (AV ‘experience’).   ‘Character’ (dokimē) is the quality of someone who, or something which, has been put to the test and come through it.  It is the quality which David’s armour lacked, when he said he could not wear it because he had not ‘proved’ it; he had not put it to the test.  Can we not usually recognize the mature character of a Christian who has gone through suffering and come out triumphant?  ‘Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character.’

  Stage 3:  character produces hope.  That is, confidence in the final glory.  The maturity of character born of past endurance of suffering brings with it a hope of future glory.  What the apostle means is surely this, that our developing, ripening Christian character is evidence that God is thus at work upon us and within us.  The fact that God is thus at work in our lives gives us confidence that He is not going to give up on the job un-complete.  If He is working in us now to transform our character, He is surely going to bring us safely to glory in the end.  The apostle is back, you see, to the indissoluble link between suffering and glory.  The reason why, if we rejoice in hope of the glory of God, we rejoice in our sufferings also, is that our sufferings produce the hope of this glory.  If the hope of glory is produced by sufferings, then we rejoice in the sufferings as well as the glory.  We rejoice not only in the end (glory), but in the means to the end (suffering).  We rejoice in them both.

  1. Assurance grounded in the love of God (verse 5)

  Someone may well ask – and Paul anticipates the question – ‘How can you know this hope of glory has any substance to it?  How  can you know that it is not just wishful thinking?  It is all very well to say you are going to heaven – to glory – but how do you know?’  Paul says, first of all, ‘Hope does not disappoint us.’  That is, hope will not disappoint us.  The NEB reads:  ‘Such a hope (of glory) is no mockery.’  It is a true hope.  ‘Yes, Paul,’ the questioner goes on, ‘that is what you say, but how do you know?  How can you be so sure that your Christian hope will never disappoint you?’  Paul’s answer is in the rest of verse 5, where he says we know that hope will never disappoint us ‘because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us’ (literally).  The solid foundation on which our hope of glory rests is the love of God.  It is because God has set His love upon us that we know, beyond any question or doubt, that He is going to persevere to the end, and we have good grounds for our confidence.  It is partly because of the character God is forming in us through suffering that we can be confident (‘suffering – endurance – character – hope’).  If He is sanctifying us now, He will surely glorify us then.  But it is chiefly because of ‘the love that will not let us go’.

  This is the argument:  We have a Christian hope that we are going to see and share the glory of God.  We believe this hope is a sure hope; that it is ‘no mockery’; that it will never disappoint us.  We know this because God loves us – He will never let us down; He will never let us go.

  ‘Ah, but’, somebody says, ‘how do you know that God loves you like that?’  Paul gives us the answer to this question too.  We know God loves us like that because we have an inner experience of it, because (NEB) ‘God’s love has flooded our inmost heart through the Holy Spirit he has given us’.  The Holy Spirit has been given to every believer, and one of the works He does is to pour out God’s love – not our love for God, but God’s love for us – like a mighty flood into our hearts, to make us vividly and inwardly aware that God loves us.  Or, as Paul expresses the same truth later, in 8:16, ‘it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God’, and that He is our heavenly Father who loves us.  The Holy Spirit delights to pour into our hearts the love of God.

  The change of tense in the verbs of verse 5 is worth noting:  The Holy Spirit was given to us (dothentos, and aorist participle, referring to a past event); but God’s love has been poured out into our hearts (ekkechutai, a perfect tense, referring to a past even with abiding results).  So we learn that the Holy Spirit was given to us the moment we believed and were converted.  At the same time He flooded our hearts with the love of God.  He still does.  The flood remains.  The once-given Spirit causes a permanent flood of divine love in our hearts.

  Summing up these first five verses, then, the fruits of justification are threefold:  peace with God, the enmity over; grace, as a state in which we stand; and a hope (a ‘joyful and confident expectation’ – Grimm-Thayer lexicon) of the glory of God at the end.  This hope is produced by the character which god is working in us through the endurance of suffering, but is confirmed by the assurance of His love which the Holy Spirit has given us.  In other words, justification, which is itself a momentary act, a judicial decision of our righteous God who pronounces us righteous in Christ, nevertheless leads on to a permanent relationship with Himself, summed up in the words ‘grace’ now, and ‘glory’ at the end.

  We come now to verses 6-11, in which the fruits of justification are further revealed.  In verses 1-5 Paul joined peace and hope, justification and glorification, making our sufferings the link.  In verses 6-11 he does it again, this time, however, making Christ’s sufferings and death the link.

  1. Christ died for the ungodly (verses 6-8)

  Let us consider what Paul tells us about the death of Jesus.  He reminds us that Christ died for the utterly undeserving.  This is the emphasis of these verses.  Just see the unflattering terms in which we are described.  First of all, we are depicted as ‘helpless’ (verse 6), ‘ungodly’ (verse 6), because of our revolt against the authority of God; thirdly, we are called ‘sinners’ (verse 8), because we have missed the mark of righteousness, however carefully we have aimed at it; and fourthly (verse 10), we are called ‘enemies’, because of the hostility between us and God.  What a fearful, devastating description of man in sin!  We are failures, we are rebels, we are enemies, and we are helpless to save ourselves.

  Yet the thrust of these verses is that it is for such people that Jesus Christ died.  We ourselves would ‘hardly die for a righteous man’ (verse 7) – somebody coldly upright in his conduct – ‘though perhaps for a good man’ – warm and attractive in his goodness – some people would ‘dare even to die’.  ‘But God shows his love for us (and “his” is emphatic in the Greek:  He shows His own, His unique love) in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.’  Not for the coldly upright, nor even for the warmly attractive and good, but for sinners, unattractive, unworthy, undeserving.

  This provides the setting for the argument which follows in verses 9-11.  It is an a fortiori or ‘much more’ argument,  an argument from the lesser to the greator, which reaches up to a new truth by standing on the shoulders of an old one.  What Paul does is this.  He contrasts the two main stages of our salvation – justification and glorification – and he shows how the first is the guarantee of the second.

  1. Justification and glorification contrasted (verses 9-11)

  It is important to grasp the details of the comparison Paul makes.

  First, he contrasts what they are.  ‘Since, therefore, we are now justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God (verse 9).  The contrast in this verse is plain.  It is between our present justification and our future salvation from the outpoured wrath of God on the Day of Judgment.  If we have already been saved from God’s condemnation because we are justified, then how much more shall we be saved from His wrath on that day?  This is the first contrast.

  Secondly, he contrasts how they are achieved.  Verse 10 reads:  ‘If while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.’  Here the emphatic contrast concerns the means adopted to accomplish the two stages of salvation, namely, the death and the life of the Son of God.  The ‘life’, of course, means the risen life of Christ.  The risen life of Christ is going to complete in heaven what the death of Christ began on earth.  I think the best commentary on this truth is found in Romans 8:34, where w are told that Christ not only died but was raised; that He sits at the right hand of God and makes intercession for us, bringing to perfection by His life what He accomplished by His death.

  Thirdly, he contrasts the people who receive them.  Look at verse 10 again:  ‘If while w were enemies we were reconciled to God . . ., much more, now that w are (no longer enemies but) reconciled, shall we be saved . . .’  If God reconciled His enemies, He will surely save His friends.

  There is therefore, in verses 9 and 10, a powerful argument that we are going to inherit a full and final salvation.  There is a strong presumption that we shall never be allowed to fall by the way, but shall be preserved to the end and glorified.  This is not just sentimental optimism; it is grounded upon irresistible logic.  The logic of it is this, that if, when we were enemies, God reconciled us through giving His Son to die for us, how much more, now we are God’s friends, will He finally save us from His wrath by His Son’s life?  If God performed the more costly service (involving His Son’s death) for His enemies, He will surely perform the less costly service now that His erstwhile enemies are His friends.  Meditate on this until you see the irrefutable logic of Paul’s argument.

  But there is more to the Christian life than this.  Christianity is not just a matter of looking back to justification and on to glorification.  The believer is not preoccupied always with the past and the future.  He has a present Christian life to live as well, and so we read in verse 11, ‘we also rejoice in god through our Lord Jesus Christ’,  We rejoice in hope.  We rejoice in sufferings also.  But above all we rejoice in God Himself; and we do it through Jesus Christ.

  As we have already seen, it is through Jesus Christ that we have peace with God (verse 1); it is through Jesus Christ that we have obtained access into this grace in which we stand (verse 2); it is through the blood of Christ that we have been reconciled (verse 9); it is through the life of Christ that we are going to be finally saved (verse 10); and it is through the same Lord Jesus Christ (verse 11) that we received (elobomen, an aorist) our reconciliation.  So we rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through the One who has achieved priceless blessings for us.

  Looking back over the first half of chapter 5, we see that in both its paragraphs (verses 1-5 and 6-11) the apostle’s thought moves from justification to glorification, from what God has already done for us to what He is still going to do for us in the consummation.  It comes out clearly in verses 1 and 2, ‘Since we are justified by faith . . . we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God’; and again in verse 9, ‘Since, therefore, we are now justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.’

  Further, in both parts, verses 1-5 and 6-11, Paul writes of the love of God and bases our assurance of final salvation upon it.  There is no other assurance.  In verse 5 he declares that God’s love has flooded our hearts, and in verse 8 that ‘God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us’.  If we Christians dare to say that we are going to heaven when we die, and that we are sure of final salvation, as we do dare to say, it is not because we are self-righteous or self-confident; it is because we believe in the steadfast love of God, the love that will not let us go.

  Then, next, both parts provide some ground for believing that God loves us.  These grounds are two, objective and subjective.  The objective gound for believing that God loves us is historical.  It concerns the death of His Son on the cross:  ‘Christ died for us while we were yet sinners, and that is God’s own proof of his love towards us’ (verse 8, NEB)  The subjective ground for believing that God loves us is experimental.  It is not in history but in experience.  It concerns not the death of Christ, but the gift of the Holy Spirit within us.  So we see in verse 8 that God proves His love at the cross and in verse 5 that He has poured His love into our hearts.  This is how we know that God loves us.  We know it rationally as we contemplate the cross, where God gave His best for the worst.  And we know it intuitively as the Spirit floods our hearts with a sense of it.

  In each case the apostle links to this knowledge our assurance of final salvation.  Verse 5:  ‘hope does not disappoint us.’  That is, we know that our expectation of final salvation will be fulfilled; it is grounded and will not deceive or disappoint us.  How do we know?  Because the love of God has flooded our hearts through the Holy Spirit.  Verses 8-10:  we know that we are going to be saved from the wrath of God.  How?  Because God proves His love for us by having given His Son to die for us while we were enemies and sinners.

Is there a Christian reading these pages who is full of doubts about his eternal salvation?  Are you sure that you have been justified, but not at all sure that all will be well in the end?  If so, let me stress again that final glorification is the fruit of justification.  ‘Those whom he justified he also glorified’, as we shall see when we come to study Romans 8:30.  If this is your problem, I urge you to trust in the God who loves you.  Look at the cross and accept it as God’s own proof that He loves you.  Ask Him to go on flooding your heart with His love through the indwelling Spirit.  And then away with gloomy doubts and fears!  Let them be swallowed up in the steadfast love of God.

  1. The Mediator of our Justification

(5:12-19)

  Therefore as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned – sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law.  Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.

  But the gift is not like the trespass.  For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.  And the free gift is not like the effect of that one man’s sin.  For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification.  If, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

  Then as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men.  For as by one man’s dis-obedience many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous.

  In the first section Paul has traced our reconciliation and our final salvation to the death of God’s Son.  His exposition immediately prompts this question:  but how can one person’s sacrifice have brought such blessings to so many?  It is not, in Sir Winston Churchhill’s famous expression, that ‘so many owe so much to so few’.  It is that so many owe so much to one person, Christ crucified.  How can that be?

  The apostle answers this anticipated question by drawing an analogy between Adam and Christ the ‘second Adam’.[2]  Both Adam and Christ demonstrate the principle that many can be affected (for good or ill) by one person’s deed.

  1. The history of man before Christ (verses 12-14)

  The first three verses concentrate on Adam.  ‘As sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned – ‘ (verse 12).  This is a very important verse, summing up, as it does, in three stages the history of man before Christ.  It tells us first, that sin entered into the world through one man; second, that death entered into the world through sin, because death is the penalty for sin; and third, that death spread to all men because all men sinned (this is explained later).  These are the three stages – sin, death and universal death; so that the present situation of universal death is due to the original transgression of one man.

  In verses 13 and 14 this progression (from one man sinning to all men dying) is further explained.  Death is visited on all men today, not just because all men have sinned like Adam, but because all men sinned in Adam.  And this is plain, Paul argues, because of what happened during the time between Adam and Moses, between the fall and the giving of the law.  During that period people certainly sinned, but their sins were not reckoned against them because ‘sin is not counted where there is no law’ (verse 13).  Yet, although there was then no law, these people still died.  Indeed (verse 14) ‘death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgressions of Adam’.  So Paul argues, logically, that the reason why they died is not because they deliberately transgressed like Adam and died in their transgression, but because they and the whole of humanity (Christ only excepted) were included in Adam, the head of the human race.  This embraces us.  In biblical terminology (cf. Heb 7:10) we were ‘still in the loins of’ Adam, and therefore in some sense involved in sin.  We cannot point the finger at him in self-righteous innocence, for we share in his guilt.  And it is because we sinned in Adam that we die today.

  1. The analogy between Adam and Christ (verses 15-19)

  So far Paul has concentrated on Adam.  At the end of verse 14, however, he calls Adam ‘a type of the one who was to come’.  That is, Adam was the prototype of Jesus Christ.  And in verse 15 he begins to unfold the analogy between Adam and Christ.  It is a fascinating and enthralling analogy, in which there is both similarity and dissimilarity.  The similarity between the two lies in the patter of events:  the fact that many people have been affected by one man’s deed.  That is the only similarity between them.  There are three differences:  of motive, of effect and of nature, between Adam’s one deed and Christ’s one deed.  The motive of the deed, the reason why Adam sinned, is different from the motive behind Christ’s death.  The effect of the deed, the result of Adam’s sin, is different from the effect of Christ’s death.  The nature of the deed, what Adam did, is different from the nature of what Christ did.  Let us look at these three separately.

  1. The motive.  At the beginning of verse 15 we read that ‘the free gift of grace is not like the trespass’.  The trespass, or offence, was a deed of sin (the Greek word paraptōma means a fall or deviation from the path).  Adam knew the path well enough.  God had told him what path he should walk along, but he deviated from it and went astray.  The free gift, on the other hand, is the Greek word charisma, which indicates that it was a deed of grace.  We may therefore say that Adam’s deed was one of self-assertion – that is why he did it; he wanted to go his own way.  But Christ’s deed was a deed of self-sacrifice, of free and unmerited favour.  That, then, is the contrasting motive between the two deeds:  self-will in the one instance and self-sacrifice in the other.
  2. The effect.  This we see in verses 15b-17.  The reference to the contrasting results of the work of Adam and Christ is already anticipated at the end of verse 15, where we are told that the sin of one man brought to many the grim penalty of death, whereas the grace of God and of the one Man Jesus Christ abounded to many in bestowing a free gift, which (according to 6:23) is eternal life.  So death is contrasted with life, and the next two verses (16 and 17) elaborate the opposite effects brought about by the deeds of Adam and of Christ.  ‘The judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification.  If, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who reeive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.’  Now, without spending time on detail, let us just mark quite clearly the contrasting effects of the deeds of Adam and of Christ.  The sin of Adam brought condemnation (katakrima); the work of Christ brings justification (dikaiōma).  The reign of death is due to Adam’s sin; a reign of life is made possible through Christ’s work.  The contrast could not be more complete.  It is a fact absolute:  between condemnation and justification; between death and life.

It is worth noting in passing, however, the precise way in which the apostle contrasts life and death.  It is not simply that the reign of death is superseded by a reign of life, for (verse 17) it is not life which reigns, but we who are said to ‘reign in life’.  Formerly death was our king.  Death reigned over us and we were its subjects, slaves under its totalitarian tyranny.  We do not now exchange death’s kingdom for another kingdom, so that we remain slaves and subjects although in a different sense.  No; once delivered from the rule of death we begin ourselves to rule over death and all the enemies of God.  We cease to be subjects and become kings, sharing the Kingship of Christ.

  1. The nature.  We have seen that Adam’s deed and Christ’s were different in their motive (what prompted them) and in their effect (what resulted from them).  Now the apostle contrasts the two deeds themselves.  The parallel here (verses 18 and 19) is similar to what has gone before, but the emphasis now is on precisely what Adam did and what Christ did.  According to verse 18, what led to condemnation for all was one man’s offence, whereas what led to justification and life for all who are in Christ is one man’s righteousness.  Adam’s ‘trespass’ was a failure to keep the law.  Christ’s ‘act of righteousness’ was a fulfillment of the law.  Verse 19 follows on from this:  ‘as by one man’s disobedience (parakoē) many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience (hupakoē) many will be made righteous.’  There is the contrast, quite clearly, between the nature of the two deeds:  Adam disobeyed the will of God and so fell from righteousness; Christ obeyed the will of God and so fulfilled all righteousness.  Cf.  Matthew 3:15 and Philippians 2:8.

We may thus briefly summarize the analogy drawn between Adam and Christ.   As to the motive for their deeds, Adam asserted himself, Christ sacrificed Himself.  As to the effect of their deeds, Adam’s deed of sin brought condemnation and death, Christ’s deed of righteousness brought justification and life.  As to the nature of their deeds, Adam disobeyed the law, Christ obeyed it.

  So then, whether we are condemned or justified, whether we are spiritually alive or dead, depends on which humanity we belong to – whether we belong to the old humanity initiated by Adam, or to the new humanity initiated by Christ.  And this, in its turn, depends on our relation to Adam and to Christ.  We need to get this quite clear:  all men are in Adam, since we are in Adam by birth, but not all men are in Christ, since we can be in Christ only by faith.  In Adam by birth we are condemned and die.  But if we are in Christ by faith we are justified and live.

  This brings us back, in conclusion, to the privileges of the justified with which the chapter began, because these are ours only in and through Jesus Christ.  Verse 1 declared:  ‘We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ’, and verse 2:  ‘Through him we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand.’  Peace, grace, glory (the three privileges of the justified) are not given to those who are in Adam, but only to those who are in Christ.


[1]   The biblical text used and all quotations are from the Revised Standard Version (1946-52), unless otherwise stated.

[2] It is fashionable nowadays to regard the story of Adam and Eve as ‘myth’, not history.  But the Scripture itself will not allow us to do this.  There may well be some figurative elements in the first three chapters of Genesis.  We would not want to dogmatize, for example, about the precise nature of the seven days, the serpent, the tree o flife or the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  But this does not mean we doubt that Adam and Eve were real people who were created good but fell through disobedience into sin.  The best argument for the historicity of Adam and Eve is not scientific (e.g. the homogeneity of the human race), but theological.  The biblical Christian accepts Adam and Eve as historical not primarily because of the Old Testament story, but because of New Testament theology.  In Rom 5:12-19 and 1 Cor 15:21, 22, 45-49 the apostle draws an analogy between Adam and Christ which depends for its validity on the historicity of both.  Each is presented as the head of a race – fallen humanity owing its ruin to Adam, and redeemed humanity owing its salvation to Christ.  Death and condemnation are traced to Adam’s disobedience, life and justification to Christ’s obedience.  The whole argument is built on two historical acts – the self-willed disobedience of Adam and the self-sacrificing obedience of Christ.

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