Thursday, July 11, 2019
Exploring Two-Adam theology in the New Testament letters
Romans 5:19-21 "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. 20 The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."
How does the first man created by God - Adam - help shed light on the role and identity of Jesus Christ? The New Testament answers this question. Today's post wants to briefly consider how the New Testament letters of Paul and others utilize "Two-Adam theology". When I say "Two-Adam theology", I refer to the comparison between the historic Adam (i.e. "First Adam") and Jesus (i.e. "Second Adam").
Where does Paul refer to Jesus as the "New Adam" or "Second Adam"
Various locations in the New Testament bring out explicit comparison between the historic Adam or "first Adam" and Jesus Christ - i.e - the "Second Adam" (sometimes called "Last Adam") - Romans 5:12-21 and portions within 1 Corinthians 15:20-23 and 1 Corinthians 15:45-48 are the key texts in Paul's letter. In the Romans text, Adam is referred to as a "type" or a pre-figured, prophetic imagery of Jesus in Romans 5:14. When we arrive in 1 Corinthians 15, Jesus is referred to as the "last Adam" in 15:45 and "second man" or "second Adam" in 15:47.
How "Two-Adam" theology highlights core Christian truths
Paul's point in comparing Jesus and Adam is to also highlight two core Christian doctrines - justification by faith, Christ's resurrection and the Christian life.
1. The doctrine of justification by faith and the "two-Adam" theology
The doctrine of "justification by faith" is concerned with how Christ's accomplished work in the cross and from His resurrection are credited to the sinner at saving faith. Such "crediting" is described by Paul in Romans 4 and Galatians 3-4 as "imputation". When we speak about "imputation", we refer to the work of another credited to my account. The means by which Christ's life, death and resurrection are "credited" or "imputed" is by "faith". In saving faith, the sinner responds to God's gracious calling and receives all that Jesus worked on their behalf. Romans 5:1-11 summarizes all of the blessings flowing from justification by faith - peace with God, access to God, hope in God and love from God.
When we consider how Adam's sin is passed down from one generation to the next, we find his sin, his shame and his transgression "credited" or "imputed" to all humanity. The disobedience, guilt and failure of Adam was "imputed" to all of his posterity (see Genesis 3:16-19; Job 31:33; Romans 5:12-21). Many older writers refer to how Christ, in effect, "undid" what the first Adam had done.
2. Christ's resurrection and "two-Adam" theology
Concerning the second major doctrine illustrated by the Adam and Jesus comparison, we find that 1 Corinthians 15:20-23 and 15:45-48 emphasize the resurrection. Perhaps the one verse that brings home the power of this comparison between Adam and Christ, the "first Adam" and "the last or second Adam", is 1 Corinthians 15:22 -
"For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive."
The first Adam's choice - disobedience and breaking of God's original covenant with him - resulted in God's divine curse, universal death and humanity's separation from God. The second Adam's choices - perfect obedience and completion of that first covenant of obedience and inauguration of the New Covenant of grace in His blood - results in blessing, life and reconciliation. Death flows from the spring of the first Adam's bloodline. Resurrected life issues forth from the Second Adam.
3. How the Christian life is illustrated by this "two-Adam" comparison
As one dives into this pool of Divine revelation on "the First Adam" and "Second Adam", we quickly find ourselves swimming from the shallow end to the ever deepening side. The central doctrines of justification by faith and resurrection are chief among Christian truths highlighted by this "two-Adam" theology. However, other truths connected to the practical, everyday, Christian life find illumination as well. We will list two of them: believer's baptism and the Christian's growth in sanctification.
A. The meaning of believer's baptism
Once a person has trusted in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, the first major step of Christian obedience involves following through in believer's baptism or immersion into water as replaying the events of Christ's death, burial and resurrection. This important act has as its backdrop the Old Adam/New Adam or Second Adam theology. Romans 6:4-6 states for example:
"Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6 knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin."
The "old-self" refers to who I once was "in Adam". The "new-self" describes who I am in Christ - the second Adam.
Or again, Colossians 2:13-14 -
"When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, 14 having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross."
Jesus as the "New Adam" grants to the believer a new identity. Baptism pictures the reality of having been transferred from what we were in the first Adam to who we are called to be in Jesus Christ. All of this, of course, can only occur by grace alone through faith alone, with baptism being a subsequent, post-conversion act of obedience by the Christian convert.
B. The Christian's need to put off the "old man" and put on the "new man" in the daily exercise of sanctification
Colossians 3 really speaks to the necessity of every Christian to "put off" and "put on". Christians are to forsake "the old, former way of life" from which they were saved and embrace their new found identity in Jesus by way of "putting on the new man". Colossians 3:9-10 -
"Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, 10 and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him." The parallel of these thoughts is found in Ephesians 4:20-24 -
"But you did not learn Christ in this way, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, 22 that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, 23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth."
The Apostle Peter, I would argue, hints at this comparison of Jesus as the second Adam in one of his letters. For example, Peter writes in 1 Peter 1:17-21 -
"knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, 19 but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. 20 For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you 21 who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God."
Peter's ongoing discussion then of how "all flesh is grass" (quoting from Isaiah 40:6ff) echoes the fact that original Adam was a man created from the dust of the ground (see Genesis 2:7).
Today's post was designed to explore the "two-Adam" theology of the New Testament letters of Paul and others. By reading Paul's comparisons of Jesus and Adam in Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15, we come to understand four major truths pertinent to Christian identity.
1. Justification by Faith
2. Christ's resurrection
These first two truths are fundamental to the whole of the Christian faith. The next two truths, illuminated by the "two-Adams" theology, have to do with the fundamentals of Christian living....
3. Believer's Baptism
4. Continuing growth in sanctification