Two old friends bumped into one another on the street one day. One of them looked forlorn, almost on the verge of tears. His friend asked, “What has the world done to you, my old friend?”
The sad fellow said, “Let me tell you. Three weeks ago, my uncle died and left me forty thousand dollars.”
“That’s a lot of money.”
“And, two weeks ago, a cousin I never even knew died, and left me eighty-five thousand dollars.”
“Sounds like you’ve been blessed!”
“You don’t understand!” he interrupted. “Last week my great-aunt passed away. I inherited almost a quarter of a million.”
Now the friend was really confused. “Then, why do you look so sad?”
We inherit our genes from our parents, our language from our environment, and our sinful nature from Adam. But how is it that we sinned in Adam, and how are we counted righteous because we are in Christ? Romans 5:12-21 offers us insight:
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—for 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 sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.
But the free 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 by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For 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.
Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
The passage in Romans implies that Adam was our authorized proxy; he cast the vote to sin for all of us. The human race has only two proxies: Adam and Jesus Christ.
Adam is the default proxy, for we are all born “in Adam.” Jesus Christ is the proxy for all who are born again, “in Christ.”
The Romans text quoted above tells about original sin and its remedy. Let’s note a few points from this text.
First, we see how sin entered the world (Romans 5:12-14). Paul does not deal here with the origin of evil; suffice it to say that evil is the spoiling of the good; destruction can come quickly, while construction is generally a long process. God created an amazing universe in six days, but that universe was infected with evil in a moment. Paul extends the curse pronounced by God as applying to all of creation (Romans 8: 20-22).
Sin entered the world by one man Adam (Adamah means, “from the earth”). According to 12b, death resulted from his sin, and now death comes to all men. Thus we are born spiritually disconnected from God and dead in sin (Ephesians 2:1-2), but the process of physically dying begins with conception.
We call this idea The Doctrine of Original Sin. Adam sinned on behalf of the human race. John Stott (in his commentary The Message of Romans) writes, “The concept of our having sinned in Adam is certainly foreign to the mindset of western individualism. But are we to subordinate Scripture to our own cultural perspective? Africans and Asians, who take for granted the collective solidarity of the extended family, tribe, nation, and race, do not have the difficulty which western people experience.
“More important even than African and Asian models, however, is the Scripture itself contains a number of significant variations on the theme of human solidarity…”
Stott points to several Biblical examples of group solidarity: Levi paid tithes to the priest Melchizedek through his forefather, Abraham (Hebrews 7:4-10); God punished all Israel for the sin of Achan (Joshua 7:1-26), and all mankind—including us—are viewed in solidarity with those who crucified Christ.
When Adam sinned, he was our representative. Ray Prichard puts it this way: “Adam was the driver of the bus of humanity. When he drove the bus over the cliff, we went down with him… When he crashed, we all went up in flames.”
In addition, we are born with a predisposition to sin. Adam and Eve were created with a potential—but not a predisposition—to sin. In contrast, we are cursed with a strong bent toward sin. It comes quite naturally. Timothy Peck comments:
“In fact, biologists are coming to a similar conclusion about the human condition. In 1996 Time Magazine had an article called “Science and Original Sin.” The article claimed that more biologists learn about our genetic make up, the more they’re discovering that we’re born with a genetic predisposition to do wrong, that we have a hereditary dark side. In fact, it’s possible that some immoral behaviors are passed on to us by our parents…”
Even before the Law was given, people died because of their sin in Adam (13-14).
This raises a number of questions:
(1)Did God know Adam was going to sin before he created him? God created Adam and Even knowing that they would choose to sin. By allowing sin and evil, God will eventually create a greater good than if the evil had never existed (Romans 8:28). Redeemed people, for example, have a better destiny than an un-fallen Adam could have experienced.
2) Didn’t Eve sin first…why are we sinners in Adam? Adam was responsible as the head of the human race. All humanity—even Eve—has its source in Adam. Thus male headship is seen in creation and is still God’s plan for the family (Ephesians 5:21-33) and the church (I Timothy 2:11-15).
(3) How can God hold us accountable for what a forefather did? He does so only in the cases of Adam and Jesus. We are counted as sinful and lost because we are in Adam; we are counted as righteous and saved because we are in Christ. If we were not lost in Adam, we could not be saved in Christ.
Second, let’s notice the gift and the sin in contrast (15-17) The Greek word for “grace” (charis) and “gift” (charisma) are pretty much the same concept: a blessing, status, or gift freely given.
Original sin brought destruction, death, and judgment; the gift of Jesus’ righteousness brought grace, life, and justification.
Both the sin and the gift were brought by one individual. Paul calls this gift the “gift of God” (5:16), the “gift of grace” (5:17), the “gift of righteousness” (5:18) and the “gift of eternal life” (6:23).
Third, let’s compare and contrast Jesus’ act of obedience with Adam’s disobedience (18-19). Verse 19 suggest the inverse of original sin:
For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One (Jesus Christ) the many will be made righteous.
Yeshua undid what Adamah did! Adam was created in the image of God; when he sinned, God’s image in us was marred; in Messiah, the restoration has begun.
At conversion, our souls are saved; one day our bodies—and then all creation—will also be redeemed (Romans 8:22-25). The atonement provided for all these aspects of redemption, but the benefits of Jesus’ work on the cross are distributed in phases.
Fourth, the Torah (Law) accentuated the sinfulness of man and the graciousness of the gift (20-21). Sin existed apart from the legal framework of the Torah. God had revealed standards of sin and righteousness before Moses (example: the covenant of Noah in Genesis 9:1-7), and God created man with a conscience—which all have violated. The Torah intensified sin, because those who had it could not longer claim ignorance, and its demands were greater than conscience..
The Law exposes sin like a mirror exposes an unkempt head of hair, but the Law cannot remedy the problem. If the Law is the mirror, grace is the comb.
Verse 20b summarizes: “…where sin increased, grace increased all the more…” When we are aware of our helplessness to make the grade, then we are prepared to receive God’s free gracious forgiveness. This forgiveness is not based upon our performance, but on the performance of Jesus’ atoning death on our behalf (2 Corinthians 5:21), a “grace greater than all our sin.”
You were born in Adam. Have you turned from you sin and accepted Jesus as Savior so that you are now in Christ?