Salvation: Condemnation in Adam, Justification in Christ
The apostle says death reigned from Adam to Moses. That depressing fifth chapter of Genesis gives the book of the generations of Adam. It is the record of an endless funeral train interspersed with a hopeless refrain. "And he died ... and he died ... and he died." Then a little light breaks through: "Enoch walked with God and he was not." But the funeral train moves on again and Methuselah was nine hundred and sixty-nine years old, "and he died." "Death reigned from Adam until Moses." It reigned! And it still reigns!
"It reigned even over them that had not sinned after the likeness of Adam's transgression." Who were they? How did Adam sin? Adam knew God's commandment. He had a positive commandment and he broke it. There were children then just as there are today. Over children who had never known the commandment, over mentally deficient ones who never understood the commandment of God - death reigned even over them. Where is the man who dares to deny that the human race is somehow tied up with Adam and his sin? Let him explain why babies die before they come to the age of accountability. There is only one explanation. Adam was the head of the race, and what he did had its effects in his race.
When Christ comes into the scheme of things, his reign goes just as far as that of Adam. You may say you do not think it right that we should die for Adam's sin. But by the same token, is it right for God to give you righteousness when you do not have any? The two things are equal. The ways of God are equal.
Adam and Christ Contrasted
The Contrast of Quality
It is not a contrast of quantity, but a contrast of quality. Here is what Paul says: "If the one trespass caused the death of many, much more will the grace of God abound unto many." In Adam we got what we deserved. Adam receiveth death, and he deserved it: you receive death, and you deserve it. But on the other hand, God gives the saved (those in Christ) something they do not deserve.
The Contrast of Quantity
"The judgment came of one." He is referring, not to one man but to one offence - one trespass. "For the judgment came of one offence unto condemnation, but the free gift came of many offences unto justification." The contrast there is between one offence and many offences. Let me illustrate: Here is a man who goes out into a forest; he takes a match and sets fire to a tree. A small action that anyone could do. (That is what Adam did - he committed a small action anyone could do.) Then you know what would happen in that forest. The fire would travel up the tree and soon the whole forest would be blazing. Now, then suppose somebody came along and put the whole thing out. Would not the second operation be vastly greater, "much more" than the first?
That is what Paul is saying: that condemnation came from one offence, but justification blots out forever millions and millions of offences. Therefore, it is greater.
The Contrast of Certainty
The reign of death is certain. Just as certain as death reigns through Adam, much more certain, we are going to reign through Jesus Christ! "Much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ." Remember that if death is a certain thing in this world, just as certain and much more certain is our reign in eternal life through Jesus Christ!
Adam and Christ Compared
"Even so by one act of righteousness." The comparison here is between the judgment that came upon all men and the free gift which came unto all men. The one goes just as far as the other - the one came to all men and the second goes to all men.
"One man's disobedience" as over against "the obedience of one." The comparison there is as to effects. If Adam's sin constituted all sinners, Christ's obedience is going to constitute righteous all those who believe on Him.
The Reign of Grace
"As sin reigned in death, even so might grace reign through righteousness." The comparison there is very obvious. The Jew would say at this point in the chapter, "Well, what is the law for?! So Paul takes just a little phrase there, "The law came in besides," and it means to steal in. "That the offence might abound." It means that 'the law came in that the offence might abound." Sin existed back there. Moreover, God brought the law in, but not to save men. Paul is not approving that old heresy that the law would save men! It was given that the "offence," or sin, might abound. The law came in to show man how great a sinner he is. Commandments stir up the "old man", and he will break the law. The law does not make a man a sinner, but it provokes sin and proves him to be a sinner. All you have to do is to tell folks what they can do and what they cannot do, and then you will have trouble. The way to get rid of sin is not through the law, but through grace! The Jew was glorying and boasting and rejoicing in the very thing that showed him how great a sinner he was. But he was no bigger a fool than some folks are today.
But, "where sin abounded, grace did abound much more exceedingly." Grace super abounded! That is what it means. Grace was greater!
Christ, Righteousness, and Life
In verse 12 Adam, sin, and death are featured. But at the end of verse 21, a direct contrast is made. "Jesus Christ our Lord" corresponds to Adam. "Righteousness" corresponds to sin. "Life corresponds to death.
There is one more term that has no corresponding one. That is "grace"! It is that little word that makes all the difference between Adam, sin, death; and Christ, righteousness, life! It is the added term. And that is why the apostle Paul dares to lay the two things side by side and say, "Look at them! The on is much more than the other!" It is because the one contains the grace of God.
Some people say this passage teaches universalism - that every man is going to be saved, as all were condemned. But look carefully at verse 17. There is a qualifying expression, "they that receive." That is Paul's answer. Receive! Receive! That is what man must do in order to be saved!
~Alva J. McClain~
(continued with # 46 - "Sanctification: The Right Way of Union with Christ")