Chapter 1 - "In Adam" and "In Christ"

SOME THEMES OF THE SECOND PART OF ROMANS.
(Chapters 1-3)

(Romans chap. V. 12—21).
My desire is to take up and discuss as simply as possible, and yet as fully as may be necessary, some of the leading truths of the epistle to the Romans. My aim is not controversy, as I trust, but edification; yet on this very account I shall seek to remember all through the need of those who have been exercised by questions which have of late arisen. Exercise is not to be deprecated. It is well to be made thus to realize how far we have really learned from God, and our need of being taught in His presence that which cannot be shaken. There is an uneasy dishonouring fear in the hearts of many as to submitting all that they have apparently learned, through whomsoever or in what way soever learned, to be afresh tested by what seems "novel" and in some measure in conflict with it. But it will only be found, by those who in patience and confidence in God allow every question to be raised that can be raised, and seek answer to it from Him through the Word, how firm His foundation stands, and how that which seems at first to threaten more or less the integrity of our faith only in result confirms it. Difficulties are cleared away, things obscure made to take shape and meaning, the divine power of the Word to manifest itself, Christ and His grace to be better known. Much too that we looked at or were prepared to look at as fundamental difference in another’s view turns out to be only the emphasizing (though perhaps the over-emphasizing) of what was really defective in our own. And so "by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part," there is made "increase of the body to the edifying of itself in love."

Let us now look at what is surely the key-note to the interpretation of what is known to many as the second part of Romans (ch. v. 12—viii.), the two contrasted thoughts, "in Adam" and "in Christ." This is what we start with in chap. v. 12—2 i, though as yet we have neither term made use of. Indeed the first term occurs but once in Scripture, and that not in Romans, but in i Cor. xv, where the first Adam and the last are put in emphatic contrast.

The statements of chap. v. 12—21 are the exposition of the doctrine :— "By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned."

"If through the offence of one the many be dead." "The judgment was by one to condemnation." "By one man’s offence death reigned by one." "By the one offence toward all men to condemnation." (Greek.)

"By the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners." "Sin hath reigned in death." (Greek.)

These are the statements as to the first man and the consequences of his sin. They show that his sin has affected not himself alone, but many with him; that it brought in death as a present judgment upon a fallen race, and tending to merge in final condemnation.

Two things as to present fact: a race of sinners; death as God’s judgment-stamp upon this race. The final outlook or tendency for all, utter condemnation.

The first man was thus in a very real way the representative of his race; not indeed by any formal covenant for his posterity, of which Scripture has no trace; but by his being the divinely constituted head of it. As the father of men, he necessarily stood as charged with the interests of his posterity; from his fall, a corrupt nature became the heritage of the race, and thus death and judgment their appointed lot, the final issue no uncertain one. Thus in a real way he represented them before God; but, as I have said, not by any formal covenant on their behalf. His representative- character was grounded in what men call natural law, which is nothing but divine law, and which is both evident in nature and asserted in the plainest possible way in Scripture. "Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one," expresses the law. "What is man, that he should be clean? and he that is born of a woman, that he should be righteous?" "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me." The Lord’s words in the gospel fully and emphatically confirm these sayings of saints of old: "That which is born of the flesh is flesh." What men now call, The principle of "heredity," is thus affirmed, and it is the whole scriptural account of the matter. The theories of a covenant with Adam for his posterity, and the imputation of his sin to them, are simply additions to Scripture, and as such, not only needless, but an obscuring of the truth, as all mere human thoughts of necessity are.

"By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned."* Such is the apostle’s statement here. It speaks of death as with every individual the result of his own sins, although his being made (or "constituted ") a sinner was the result of Adam’s disobedience (v. iv). I know it has been argued that this could not apply to infants, who if they sinned could only have done so in Adam. But the apostle is not speaking of infants, nor did their case need to be considered here. Sinning in Adam is not a doctrine of Scripture, and it is not allowable to insert words of such a character and importance in this place. The apostle is addressing himself to believers, to show the application of the work of Christ to such, as delivering them from all that attached to them by nature or practice. From this the case of infants may be easily inferred;but it is not his object to speak of it, and it cannot be shown that he does so at all.

Sin, then, came in through Adam. The nature of man was corrupted; by his disobedience the many were made sinners: and thus death introducing to judgment was the stamp of God upon the fallen condition. Adam was the representative of his race by the fact that he was the head of it, and thus, as it is put in i Corinthians xv. 22, "in Adam all die."

This expression, though found but once, is of great significance, because it is contrasted with and throws light upon another expression which is of the highest importance to us, and which the following chapters of Romans use repeatedly. "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." We are now prepared to understand how "in Adam all die." In his death was involved and insured the death of all men. As head of the race, his ruin and death was theirs, and so "in him," their representative, they die. "In Adam" speaks of place,—of representation; as the apostle argues as to Levi and Abraham (Heb. vii. 9, 10): "And as I may so say, Levi also, who receiveth tithes, paid tithes in Abraham; for he was yet in the loins of his father when Melchzisedek met him." We too were in the loins of Adam when he fell and sentence of death was passed upon him; and in him we die. Thank God, we have heard the voice of Another, Head and Representative too of His race, which says, "Because I live, ye shall live also." (Jno. X1V. 19.) In Adam we die: in Christ we live.

As in Adam, then, we are completely ruined. We are "constituted sinners "—sinners by constitution. Death and judgment are our appointed lot. This is what has to be met in our behalf, if Christ comes in for us. It is not enough for Him to be a new head and fountain of life for us from God. He must not only be our new Representative in life, but our Representative in death, and under curse also, taking the doom of those whose new Head He becomes. Hence comes a distinction which we must bear in mind. In life, He is our Representative that with Him we may live and inherit the portion He has acquired for us: in death, He is our Representative that we may not die, because already dead with Him. This last is substitution. He dies for us, and He alone: in life He lives for us, and (blessed be God!) lives not alone.

Now let us look at the apostle’s statements. And first,— Adam "is the figure of Him that was to come." (v. 14.)

Thus it is that in i Cor. xv. 22 "in Christ" is set over against "in Adam," and that in ver. 45 again "the last Adam" is seen in essential contrast to the "first:" "The first Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening Spirit."

But what, then, does a "last Adam" mean? The head of a new race. And thus "if any man be in Christ "—set over against "in Adam" in the verse already looked at,—" it is a new creation." (2 Cor. v. iv) The first Adam was the head of the old creation; the last Adam is the Head of the new. "In Christ" means to be long to the new creation and the new Head.

I merely link these terms together now. I do not propose to examine here what exactly the new creation is. The term is not used in Romans, though in Galatians (its kindred epistle, though wider in scope,) it is. But it should be obvious that the first Adam, as "the figure of Him that was to come," figures Christ as "the last Adam," the representative Head of a new race. As such, the apostle compares the results of the obedience of the One to "the many" who stand in Him, with the results of the first man’s disobedience to "the many" who fell with him.

But we must pause before proceeding with this, to make it perfectly clear to any who have a doubt that Scripture speaks of the last Adam as really the Head of a race. Spite of the term "last Adam," some have doubt of this. They say, "We are never called children of Christ, but of God;" which is true, because it is divine life that is communicated, and "children of Christ" would imply only human life. "The last Adam is made a quickening Spirit" surely proves, however, that in this character He quickens (or gives life), while at the same time it shows the character of the life communicated; for "that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." And this action of the last Adam we find imaged by the Lord in resurrection breathing upon His disciples when He says, "Receive ye the Holy Ghost." The first Adam was but a "living soul" into whose nostrils God breathed the breath of life, that he might become so. The last Adam breathes upon others; He is a quickening Spirit, not merely a living soul.

Isaiah also, foreseeing the glory of the Lord, declares, "When Thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed" (liii. io). And again, in words which are quoted and applied to Christ by the apostle, "Behold, I and the children which God hath given Me" (ch. viii. i8; Heb.ii. 13).

There is surely no more need to prove that Christ as last Adam, like him whose antitype He is, is the Head of a race. It is the key to all that follows in Romans v. and the two next chapters, where "in Christ" as Corinthians gives it, is in contrast, yet antitypical correspondence, with "in Adam."

Now, as in Adam’s case we have traced the results of the disobedience of the one to the many, let us trace the results of the obedience of the new Representative-Head to the many connected with Him. "Much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many."
"The free gift is of many offences unto justification."
"They which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ."

"By the one righteousness toward all men to justification of life." (Gr.) "By the obedience of the one shall the many be made righteous." These are the statements corresponding to, yet contrasted with, the former ones which we considered. One thing we must remember in considering them, that these two accounts do not exhibit a mere balance of results. "Not as the offence so also is the free gift"(v. ‘5). If righteousness be shown in dealing with sin, the "free gift," while of course it must be righteous, absolutely so, is yet measured only by the grace that has given Christ for us. Hence His work by no means merely cancels the results of sin, but lifts us into a place altogether beyond what was originally ours. Let us see what we have here, although even here the tale is not fully told.

First, we have "life;" and this in the next chapter (v. 23) is expanded into "eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." It is not merely life from another source, but life of an entirely new character and quality; not a restoration of the failed and forfeited life, but a life infinitely higher—a divine life. There is but one life which is eternal, and "in Christ Jesus our Lord" declares its source to be in a divine Person, and now become man. Nor only so, for the force of the expression is precise. It is not correctly given in our common version, but in the revised it is, as I have quoted it. It is "in," not, as the common version, "through;" and "Christ Jesus," not "Jesus Christ." Such differences, minute as they may seem, are in Scripture never without significance. "Jesus Christ" is the Lord’s personal name emphasized; "Christ Jesus" emphasizes His official title. It speaks of a place now taken through His work accomplished. In the eleventh verse it should read similarly, "alive to God in Christ Jesus." Again we have it in the eighth chapter, "no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus;" and in the second verse, "life in Christ Jesus." Elsewhere we have "sanctified" and "saints in Christ Jesus," "created in Christ Jesus," "of Him are ye in Christ Jesus," and so repeatedly. Except once—Peter (i Pet. v. Ia), no inspired writer uses this order of words, but only Paul. "In Jesus," or "in Jesus the Christ," we are never said to be, but only "in Christ," or "in Christ Jesus." The special force ought to be therefore clear.

Our life, then, is not only in Him, but in Him as now having accomplished His work and gone up to God. There, as Peter on the day of Pentecost bears witness, He is made Lord and Christ (Acts II. 36), actually reaching the place which was His already by appointment, but to be reached only in one way. The last Adam becomes Head of the race after His work of obedience is accomplished, as the first Adam became head when his work of disobedience was accomplished. And as in the one case, so in the other, the results of the work become the heritage of the race. The head of the race represents the race before God. The ruin of the head becomes the ruin of the race. If the head stands, so does the race.

In either case, the connection of the head and the race is by life and nature, a corrupt nature being transmitted from the fallen head, a divine life and nature, free from and incapable of taint, from the new head, Christ Jesus. Death and judgment lay hold upon the fallen creature; righteousness characterizes the possessor of eternal life.

But here there is another need to be met; for these possessors of righteousness in a new life are by the old one children of Adam, and under wrath and condemnation because of manifold sins. Christ, the Son of the Father, is not stooping to take up unfallen beings, and bring them into a new place of nearness to God, but He is taking up sinners. For these, then, He must provide, along with a new life, a righteousness which shall justify them from all charge of sin. They must not only be delivered from inward corruption by a principle of right eousness imparted; they must be delivered from guilt also by a righteousness imputed. There must be a "justification of life,"—that is, a justification belonging to the life communicated: "by one righteousness toward all men,"—God’s grace offering itself for acceptance by all,—" unto justification of life." Here, then, comes in, not representation simply, but substitution,—representation under penalty for those who had incurred the penalty. He who is our Representative-Head in life must be our Substitute in death also. He must be "obedient unto death," standing in our place, that we may stand in His,—in the place He has won and taken for us with God. His obedience avails for much more than negatively to justify from all charge of sin: it has its own infinite preciousness before God, in virtue of which we have a positive righteousness measured by this. He "of God is made unto us righteousness" (i Cor. i. 30). We "receive abundance of the gift of righteousness," as the passage before us says, and "shall reign in life by One, Jesus Christ." Thus are the effects of the fall for us removed, and we stand in a new place under a new Head. We are in Christ, not Adam; and this, as we have seen, speaks of place in a representative,—that by virtue of headship of a race. Our connection with Christ is now, as formerly it was with Adam, by the life which we receive from Him, and of which we partake in Him,—that is, by belonging to the race of which He is head. This and its consequences are unfolded further in the following chapters, to which this doctrine of the two Adams is the key.